I attended the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council’s 15th annual National Conference and Business Fair in Philadelphia on Tuesday. There, more than 3,000 executives from leading companies, government entities and women-owned businesses from across the country had the opportunity to network.
When I first arrived, I spoke with Karen Primak, president of IPAK in West Deptford, a manufacturer of custom packing, printing, technology and video for marketing, sales and educational purposes.
Having taken over a business started by her mother and sister, Primak was there to help mentor other women-owned businesses in the state.
“I think women business owners are more dedicated,” Primak said. “They are used to juggling and multitasking.”
She then told me to look into the research conducted by Catalyst regarding the success of companies who had three or more women on their board of directors.
Turns out, in 2012 Catalyst reported that Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women board directors attained significantly higher financial performance than those with the lowest representation of women board directors.
Specifically, the businesses with the highest representation outstandingly outperformed those with the lowest representation in: return on equity (a 53 percent difference), sales (a 42 percent difference) and return on invested capital (a 66 percent difference).
But according to a report released in January by the Executive Women of New Jersey entitled “A Seat at the Table: Celebrating Women & Board Leadership,” our state isn’t doing much to take any of that research into consideration.
In New Jersey, the report said, women represent less than 14 percent of the total board of the state’s 111 largest publicly held companies.
Which begs the question: If all it takes to generate more money for the state economy is to appoint more women to board of directors — seriously, what’s the hold up?
One reason may be — as it often is — that women need to be promoted and hired much more often to senior executive roles.
In the same report, EWNJ says only 16 percent of the New Jersey companies surveyed had female executive officers; and just 10 percent had female employees labeled “high earners.”
This led to a third of the companies reporting they had no female board members at all, and just four with women CEOs.
So, OK — if it’s not about the money (which shocks me) — what else can we do to incentivize companies to appoint more women to boards?
Well, additional research conducted by the Whitehead Faculty Fellow in Corporate Sustainability for the Haas School of Business at University of California-Berkley also suggests that companies with more women on their board of directors are more likely to: invest in renewable and operationally efficient energy; help clients manage climate change risk; reduce their companies’ carbon footprints and environmental impacts; and take steps not to disturb bio-diverse areas.
If companies don’t want to do something so simple to help save the planet while making more money, then I don’t know what else to say.
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