Few women to be found in Pa. corporate, nonprofit boardrooms: “it's a problem”

pennlive

Increasing women's presence in corporate boardrooms

- Shared by Lloyd Ebright, Office of the Pennsylvania State Treasurer

- ByJan Murphy | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.;

The state House of Representatives has issued a challenge to Pennsylvania companies and nonprofit institutions: Put more women in your boardroom and executive leadership seats.

By a vote of 189-0, the chamber passed a resolution on Wednesday encouraging companies and nonprofits to have a minimum of 30 percent women directors by the end of 2020 and to annually measure their progress toward equal representation in leadership positions between men and women.

"Why does it matter to the General Assembly?" asked the resolution's sponsor Rep. Kate Harper, R-Montgomery County at a Capitol Complex news conference held prior to the vote. "Because it's Pennsylvania's economy we're talking about."

Businesses do better financially with more women on their boards, according to research by the Catalyst Research Center for Equity in Business Leadership cited by Suzanne Mayes, president of the Forum of Executive Women of Greater Philadelphia. That study also found boards with more women on them have fewer governance-related controversies than average.

The impediment to achieving the minimum 30 percent goal is not that there is a shortage of highly educated women in the labor force qualified to take board and executive positions, Harper said.

Women hold over 59 percent of the nation's bachelor degrees, nearly 63 percent of master's degrees, 52 percent of doctorate degrees and 32 percent of master's in business administration, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"With all that education, women make up only 47 percent of the U.S. labor force, 43 percent of Pennsylvania's labor force," she said.

Moreover, she said only about 13 percent of executive positions in the largest 100 public corporations headquartered in Pennsylvania are held by women. Forty-one of those companies have no women in executive positions and 18 have no women on their board of directors.

"It's just not enough," Harper said. "It's not that women necessarily see things differently but women see different things. Our life experiences are different. If we're not in the room, it's a problem."

Trish Oelrich, a member of the Federal Home Loan Bank Office of Finance board, said from her experience, she has found women have more empathy and are generally more customer focused.

"It's not about affirmative action," she said. "We're there because we're competent and we earned our right to be there. We're not there just because we're women."

House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny County, noted that in passing the resolution Pennsylvania becomes the fifth state in the nation to go on record in support of putting more women in executive positions. The others are California, Colorado, Illinois, and Massachusetts.

"This resolution has a cultural impact," he said. "I believe this resolution will have reverberations throughout the business and nonprofit communities in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania."

Some might say the General Assembly comes at this issue from a position of weakness in urging businesses and nonprofits to bring more women on board.

The Pennsylvania Legislature has no women in its top leadership posts. It also has one of the nation's lowest percentages of females in its Legislature with less than 20 percent, according to the Rutgers University's Center for American Women and Politics.

Harper said that is on voters to address.

Original article here

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