Women in Charge, We Hear You! Board Diversity in Hot Seat

By Amy Willard-Cross

America needs more women on boards.

That’s the idea behind Tuesday’s National Conversation on Gender Diversity. It’s a daylong countrywide discussion that will take place in hotel ballrooms, business clubs, universities and on Twitter.

Twitter is actually part of the problem. That company just got into boiling hot water preceding its IPO because, despite having an overwhelming female user base, the company had no women on its board.  Not one MBA or executive woman in America was seen as competent to serve.

2020 Women On Boards has organized this conversation—which is taking place in almost 20 cities and even in Sweden, Italy and Canada. Some 1,400 people are expected to attend, with more tweeting along. If you live in Atlanta, Louisville, Ft. Lauderdale, and other cities, you might still be able to get tickets.  Another sign bodes well for the campaign:  many local branches of organizations and businesses have gotten behind the National Conversation, including AAUW and NAWBO boards, KMPG, and  Bank of America.

The goal of the Conversation is to extend the influence of the campaign—geographically and numerically. So far, about 20,000 women professionals are involved and organizers hope the numbers will grow.  Co-founder of 2020 WOB, Malli Gero says, “The more voices are heard from stakeholders, the more companies will respond.

It does seem to be working. Since the group’s founding just three years ago, the number of board seats held by women in Fortune 1000 companies has jumped to 16.6 percent, up from 14.6 percent in 2011.  2020 WOB has a regular letter-writing campaign and a huge network of volunteers, some of whom are recruited in business schools.  

Companies often maintain they need to find the best candidates for board seats.  Gero says,“the more voices that are heard, through our campaign, the faster this is going to happen, companies will find that there are qualified women to serve.”  To make it easier, there are several lists floating about of super women.

When asked about recent progress, Gero was heartened by the W company’s efforts and says, “We were thrilled to see Facebook launch with their IPO rectified by adding a woman on board…With Twitter, there was a lot of flack, and we’re waiting to see if the company rectifies.”

Maybe if Twitter Nation sent out messages, they’d get the idea. 

Follow the conversation with the hashtag, #2020WOB. 

Photo: © olly - Fotolia.com