Massachusetts Business Roundtable

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.

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