New Report Finds That Women Executives in Massachusetts Now Face Declines in Advancement
The number of women directors and executive officers in Massachusetts' largest public companies fell in 2008, according to a recent report published by The Boston Club. In addition, the number of companies with no women in their boardroom or executive suites increased significantly. Fewer women executive officers mean fewer women in the pipeline for board appointments, the women's business organization asserts.
The report, "Succession Planning and Diversity: A Winning Combination in Troubled Times: The 2008 Census of Women Directors and Executive Officers of Massachusetts Public Companies" is a joint project of The Boston Club, Bentley University and Mercer.
"This news is very disturbing," said Kathleen Stone, president of The Boston Club. The situation poses a huge challenge to the advancement of women to positions of corporate leadership, but also presents an opportunity. It's time for companies that have not made progress to follow the lead of other companies and enhance their own boardrooms and executive suites with gender diversity."
The change in composition of the 100 largest companies headquartered in Massachusetts has contributed to the low numbers. Since 2005, 26 companies dropped from the list because of merger or acquisition, decline in revenue, or relocation -- eleven of them in this past year alone. Based solely on the changed composition since last year, this year's Census reports a net loss of eight women directors, 17 women executive officers and six top compensated women. Because the number of women holding leadership positions is small, any loss in absolute numbers has an exponential impact on the percentages.
The Boston Club suggests that another reason for the low numbers of women in leadership positions is the absence of thoughtful succession planning by the boards of companies on the list. An analysis of the age and tenure of the directors of the Census companies shows that 19 companies had 26 independent directors over the age of 75, and at least 40% of the independent directors on nine boards had served for over 15 years, some for as long as 30 years. According to The Boston Club, better governance practices, including director evaluation and succession planning, will enable companies to add directors who have the diversity of background, experience, skills and perspective to address successfully the challenges of a global economy.