The Wall Street Journal recently reported a 2019 milestone worth noting: There are no longer any all-male boards of directors among S&P 500 companies.
When you consider that 12.5% of S&P 500 companies lacked even one female board member as recently as 2012, this is an encouraging, albeit overdue, development. The WSJ credits the change to pressure from activist shareholders, big investment firms, such as State Street, BlackRock and Vanguard, and state pension funds that have, in some cases, threatened to withhold proxy votes if the large-cap publicly traded companies failed to add women to boards.
But before we break out the champagne, the fact remains that progress on gender diversity in the boardroom remains stubbornly slow. Overall, only 27% of all S&P 500 board seats are held by women. At Fortune 500 firms, which includes private companies, women comprise only 22.5% of board seats. In the broader Russell 3000 index, which includes most public companies on major US stock exchanges, only 17% of board seats are held by women.
Why? According to Morningstar, corporate boards that are sincere in their desire to increase gender diversity are sometimes challenged by a limited pool of applicants with the CEO experience they prefer because women are underrepresented in senior management positions. As a result, corporate boards are repeatedly selecting from the same small population of female executives and existing board directors. In fact, 24% of women board members sit on more than one board, while only 17.9% of men serve on multiple boards.
We can achieve gender diversity in the boardroom more quickly by increasing opportunities for women to advance to the senior corporate positions that feed into the executive talent pool for board appointments. Here at NJBIA, we support this mission through our Women Business Leaders Network and our annual Women Business Leaders Forum, which brings together hundreds of men and women to participate with top business leaders and expert panelists who share career advice and life lessons that inspire our attendees.
This year’s forum on September 20, “Owning Your Success,” is designed to benefit participants no matter where they are in their careers, with customized sessions organized by “track” for entry level, middle management and senior executives. Both men and women can learn how to build their personal brand, network with confidence, transition successfully to the next step in their career, eradicate bias, and more.
The event features Ted Talk-like presentations by several prominent business leaders, breakout sessions moderated by top executives, our popular “Coaches Corner” that provides participants one-on-one career counseling, and a keynote by e-commerce titan Jennifer Fleiss, who has co-founded two successful companies – Rent the Runway and Jetblack – which have disrupted the online retail business model. As an innovator changing the future of e-commerce, Fleiss is an in-demand speaker whose story is sure to resonate with attendees.
The Women Business Leaders Forum also offers extensive networking opportunities that allow participants to make the important business connections that open new doors and can advance their careers.
Whether you are someone who aspires to have a seat in the boardroom, or are committed to helping women advance there, I hope you’ll join us September 20 at the Ocean Place Resort & Spa in Long Branch. Hotel room blocks are available if you’d like to attend the welcome reception the night prior. To learn more and register to attend, go to the events page of our website at www.njbia.org.
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