Yesterday I attended The Boston Club’s Corporate Salute honoring New England companies with two or more women directors on their boards. The Boston Club is a great organization, run by high caliber people who help businesses find women directors. The event was well run and well attended. But I walked away disappointed.
Three women, two from the Boston Club and one a keynote (Sharon Allen, Chair of the Board of Directors for Deloitte LLP) spoke about the lack of women, the need for women, and the benefits of having women at the top of businesses. Allen shared stories from her personal career and was a great speaker.
But while I sat there and ate my egg frittata next to highly competent women with their oversized patent leather bags, Prada eyewear and high-heeled pumps (4 is the new 3″ fyi), I daydreamed about the speeches I wanted to hear.
You see, The Boston Club just released its annual census which looks at the number of women on boards and in the executive suites of the top 100 public companies in Massachusetts. And according to the data, not only has the Commonwealth not made any progress in this area, it is moving backwards. You can download the report here.
Women represent just 11.3 percent of all directors in Massachusetts and only 8.6 percent of all executive officers. More than half of the companies surveyed have no women C-level executives at all. The percentage of women directors is basically flat since last year but the number of women executives is the lowest it has been since The Boston Club first compiled a census in 2003. The percentage of women among the highest paid executives is 23, a full point lower than last year. For women of color, the situation is even bleaker. They represent only two C-level executives and 10 directors at the top 100 public companies.
And so, in light of this data, I wanted the speakers to stand up and yell, “Bullshit!” I didn’t want to hear their restrain and reason – their calm discussion about how women at the top make a positive impact on the bottom-line — or how businesses benefit from diverse management teams –that businesses need a woman’s perspective to relate to their customers (remember women control at least 85 percent of all consumer purchasing power, represent 51 percent of the population, and represent the majority of today’s workforce.) I’ve heard it all before.
I wanted them to call, “Foul!” There is no legitimate reason for this lack of diversity. Women are graduating college, law school and business school at greater rates than ever, and organization’s like The Boston Club can help identify the top candidates. The women are there.
The event organizers had representatives from companies with two or more women directors stand up for recognition. In my daydream, representatives from the companies with No women at the top stood up and all of us threw tomatoes at them (they were served with the frittatas).
Is it any wonder I no longer wear high heels and carry expensive totes to work, and instead wear pajamas and Uggs to my “office” everyday?