Asking tough questions...

Last week we had the pleasure of meeting the next generation of corporate directors at the 85 Broads/Bentley University Chapter event: "The Importance of Empowering Women." We were in good company. We shared the podium with Dress for Success, the non-profit that provides interview suits, confidence boosts, and career development to low-income women, and Deloitte's Women's Initiative. It was great to be in the company of so many young, talented women.

It was the first time we formally presented the 2020 campaign to a college audience. The campaign was enthusiastically received - but the conversation that followed the presentation was especially noteworthy.

We typically ask young adults entering the workforce to look at a company's leadership composition prior to going on an interview. If the company has women directors and executive officers it's an indication that the company has women-friendly policies and clear paths for success.

The young women in the room wanted to know how to ask a company about career paths for women in companies that don't have women in senior positions.  Here's what we suggest:

"I notice that there are few women in leadership positions at this company. I'm very interested in working here - can you please identify advancement opportunities that will allow me to move my career forward? "

How would you ask the question?

We'd love to come to talk to your college group. Email us at: info@2020wob.com.

Lessons from Across the Pond

England will not mandate gender diversity on corporate boards, according to a new report commissioned by the British government last week. Instead, the commission recommends that companies should aim for a minimum of 25% female representation by 2015.  It calls on CEOs to be more transparent about corporate leadership make-up, suggesting that companies disclose the proportion of women on boards, the number of women executives and total number of women employees on an annual basis.

We think the SEC should take note: Here at home the SEC has asked U.S. companies to be more transparent about gender diversity –  but it hasn't defined diversity. The SEC should put a stick in the ground and define board diversity as we do: 20% women by 2020.

Louisiana, where are your women directors?

We were recently in New Orleans, attending a luncheon for women executives, including some from the Louisiana Women's Forum. There was a great exchange about board diversity, a lot of enthusiasm about the 2020 campaign, and concern about the stats.

Here's what we learned about Louisiana's 20 largest public companies: None of them are "W" companies - not one company on the list had 20% of its directors women. In fact, women comprise just 7.6% of the board seats in these companies, 15 women out of 197 directors. By comparison, companies in the Fortune 1000 average about 11%.

Other Top 20 LA stats: Almost half the companies on the list of 20 have no women directors (Z Companies), 7 have 1 woman director (T Companies) and 4 are very close to the 20% benchmark (V Companies).

The 27 women who attended the lunch were enthusiastic about forming a Louisiana 2020 Women on Boards chapter and plan to meet again as a group in March to strategize how to spread the word and engage Louisiana companies about adding more women.  Many of the women who attended the lunch were qualified to sit on boards. We hope to report progress in Louisiana soon.

Want to start a 2020 Women on Boards chapter? Know of a 20% company not in our W database? Email us! We'd love to hear from you.

New Orleans Luncheon - January 14, 2011

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