We need a female perspective on economic policy

Yesterday’s announcement of Alan Krueger as chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors got us wondering: Where are the women? For sure, there is a woman on the Council and in senior positions in government and financial institutions. But when it comes to making headlines – it’s the guys that get the ink.

Ezra Klein, author of the blog Economic and Domestic Policy and Lots of It, writes,  “Of Course it’s Alan Kreuger.” He’s a leading labor economist.  He’s served in both the Clinton and Obama administrations. He has a proven ability. He’s a close tennis buddy of Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner. The Administration has a very specific personnel-replacement strategy.

From where we sit, this strategy borrows from the one that CEOs use when filling board seats: look for people that look like you, white and male.  So, Peter Orszag (Office of Management and Budget) begat Jack Lew. Larry Summers ( National Economic Council) begat Gene Sperling; Robert Gates (Defense Department) begat Leon Panetta; Ron Klain ( Vice President’s office) begat Bruce Reed, and Rahm Emanuel ( White House) begat William Daley, and so on.

Women are more vulnerable than men in economic downturns. They are more likely to be underemployed or without a job. They canlack social protection and have limited access to and control over economic and financial resources.  According to Sha Zukang, Under Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs ,“ Policy responses to the financial crisis must take gender equality perspectives into account to ensure that women as well as men can benefit from employment creation and investments in social infrastructure.”

Notice to the Z Companies - You're on the List.

Part of the 2020 Women on Boards strategy is to educate corporate stakeholders about why board diversity – and gender diversity in particular – is important. We’ve been meeting with influencers and speaking at events to get the word out. Reaction to the campaign has been tremendous with the number of supporters growing daily.

In keeping with our campaign strategy, this week we notified 41 companies that they are on the 2020 Zero “Z” list. The full list will be published on our website in January. We’re asking the “Z” companies to take the “2020 Challenge” and announce their intentions of adding women to their boards, with a commitment to reach the 20% benchmark by 2020. 

According to our research in the 2010 Fortune 500 public companies, there are 143 “W” companies, 126 Very Close or “V” companies,  150 Token or “T” companies and 41 “Z” companies.  

In the 13 Fortune 500 companies in Massachusetts, where we’re based, only 10 women are needed for all the companies to get to 20%.  For the 52 Fortune 500 companies in New York all they need is about 50 women. To the question about whether there are enough qualified women to serve, we know we can come up with the names of 60 women in Boston and New York. These companies could also look nationally and internationally.

Congrats to 304 Winning "W" Companies

Last week we mailed out 304 congratulatory certificates to CEOs of winning "W" companies - public and private companies whose boards are comprised of 20% or more women. We want these senior executives to know that the public applauds their board diversity policies and pays attention to the issue.  We also emailed the PR and IR executives at the companies to apprise them of the honor. The names of the companies can be found on 2020wob.com in our "W" company database.

The 2020 database is the cornerstone of our campaign. The database includes companies on the Fortune 500; ION's 2011 report of companies in 14 U.S. regions; and private and other companies that self-report. In September we will have concluded our research on the 2010 Fortune 1000, which will be our benchmark for the duration of 2020 Women on Boards campaign. Look for the launch of the 2020 Index this fall.

Why are we doing this?  Peter Drucker said, "What gets measured gets changed." When it comes to board diversity, he was only half right. Lots of organizations have measured the number of women who serve on the boards of public companies, but the number has been stuck at 11% for years, according to ION. The 2020 Women on Boards campaign takes the initiative a step further. Through our grassroots efforts we are contacting these companies and letting them know that people care about board diversity. This outreach is especially important as we begin to track the zero "Z" companies that may change their policies because of public pressure. We'll be publishing that list in January 2012.

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