2020 Women on Boards

Still No Progress: Is It Apathy?

This week ION released its 7th Annual Status Report of Women Directors and Executive Officers of Public Companies in Fourteen Regions of the United States. For the third consecutive year the percentage of women directors in public companies in the 14 regions studied has stayed static at 11%; the lowest percentage was in Tennessee at 8.3%; the highest was in New York at 18.4%.

The report shows that while large companies (those in the Fortune 500) do better with gender diversity in their board rooms, smaller companies – the majority of businesses that make up our local economies – are not getting the message.

Why has there been no progress? We think the reason is apathy. Alan Macdonald, executive director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, said in a meeting with 2020 Women on Boards this week, that in theory, putting qualified women on corporate boards is not something people can argue with. It makes sense.

Putting the theory into practice has been difficult. The 14 business organizations that make up the ION network have worked tirelessly on this issue. They are a valuable resource for companies that are ready to take the step toward board diversity. Ask an ION member organization for help identifying qualified women and you’ll get 14 organizations working their networks. The charges for this service are minimal.

It’s time for corporate stakeholders (employees, shareholders, and consumers) to voice their concern about the lack of diversity on corporate boards. When companies start getting the message that their constituents are unhappy, they will begin to make changes.

What can you do? Vote your proxy. Email the companies that you do business with. Tell them that you care about the composition of the leadership in the company and urge them to diversify their boards.

It's proxy time.

With the 2011 season upon us we're noting lots of articles about increased shareholder activism. The recent SEC ruling allowing shareholders to vote on executive compensation (say on pay) may open doors for shareholders to weigh in on other kinds of proposals, like board diversity.

Online proxy voting services are making it easier for retail investors to vote their proxies. One service, Moxy Vote, allows investors to align their votes with advocacy groups they trust. Starting this month, 2020 Women on Boards joins the ranks of Moxy Vote Advisors, endorsing resolutions that encourage board diversity and slates that include women director candidates.

In the last week alone, we’ve endorsed the slates of 13 companies that have included women on the slate, including Capital Federal Financial, Warner Music Group, Novartis, and The Walt Disney Company (see the full list here).

Even if you don’t use the site to vote your proxies, Moxy Vote is a great way to monitor corporate resolutions and to follow initiatives you care about. Find an advocate that aligns with your interests and see what resolutions they support. It's like Facebook for shareholders. How cool is that?

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