women directors

An August to Remember

You’ve heard how hard it is to find qualified women board appointees?  Not for these seven companies.  3M, Care.com, Dollar General, Jack in the Box, Potbelly, Raytheon and Tesla all appointed women to their boards this month.  For some it was a noteworthy first, for others a natural second or third woman director. 

These newly appointed directors bring a range of high-level skills including  IT operations, digital marketing, financial expertise and retail savvy.  Proof positive that senior women executives have the skills and experience that boards need - including industry knowledge, operational experience and functional expertise.

As such, we look forward to their contributions including:
• Diversity of Thought: Women on boards bring different perspectives to the difficult issues facing today’s corporations. It is widely believed that diversity of thought results in better decision making.

• Stakeholder Representation: The makeup of corporate boards of directors should be representative of the company in which it governs: shareholders, employees, and customers.

• Competitive Advantage: A diverse board is better positioned to thrive in today’s global economy where the pace of change is accelerating and rapidly changing economic realities require nimble, strategic and well informed directors.

So the next time you hear the excuse, “we can’t find qualified women,” remember this month’s pool of just-tapped talent.  We applaud all of our recent appointees, and encourage other companies to dive on in, the water’s fine. 

Closing The Wage Gap

A few years ago, my daughter applied for her first job after college. She worked hard on her resume and cover letter, was asked to come in for an interview and landed the job. Bubbling with excitement, she called to tell me the news. After congratulating her, hearing about the meeting and the responsibilities of the job, I asked how much money she'd be making. Sheepishly, she said, "I didn't ask."
I couldn't believe it.  With college loans and rent to pay, my daughter needed a paycheck. I asked her why she didn't ask and her answer astounded me. "I thought it was impolite to talk about money," she said.
What I hadn't taught her, and what her university failed to teach her, was that it's OK -- even necessary -- to talk about money. It's a problem that many women have.
In her book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg tells a story about negotiating her contract at Facebook. She recounts how she was prepared to accept a compensation package that was less than she thought she deserved until her brother-in-law pointedly asked "why would you be willing to make less than any man would make to do the same job?"[1] She went back, re-negotiated with Mark Zuckerberg, and got the package she thought she deserved.

Old Attitudes Die Hard

We're often asked why it's taking so long for companies to diversify their boards.  Several studies in the news hint that hidden bias may be the culprit and a leading cause for discrimination in settings like academia, business and even the courts.
A few weeks ago I had jury duty. Waiting to see if I'd get picked for a trial, I watched a video about the Massachusetts court system. Here's what I learned:
Women in Massachusetts were only permitted to serve on juries in 1950 -- a full 30 years after getting the right to vote. My liberal home state was 39th in the nation to allow women defendants to be judged by their peers. In 1975 the US Supreme Court made it the law of the land, ruling that women could not be excluded from the jury pool. In 1979, the Massachusetts' Supreme Judicial Court ruled that particular traits, including race and gender, could not be used to strike potential jurors. The landmark decision, Commonwealth v. Soares, is considered to mark the end of permissible gender bias in the selection of jurors in Massachusetts. [1]
The end of permissible bias ... there's the rub! Only 40 years ago (less than two generations) juries were comprised of white men. This 'norm' informed our social and cultural memory. It got me to wondering: Can you overcome gender bias without regulation, and if so, how long does it take? Is it a matter of years or might it take generations?

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