Companies that are not promoting women to executive positions
can no longer claim that women lack the skills, education and
desire necessary to lead a company, according to the 2003 Michigan
Women’s Leadership Index released yesterday.

Women constitute 49 percent of all undergraduate business
students and 41 percent of Masters of Business Administration
students across the nation. But according to the report, women hold
only 9.6 percent of board seats and 7.1 percent of the highest
officer positions at Michigan’s 100 largest companies.

“We used to say the pool wasn’t there and women needed to
develop the education,” said Anne Doyle, a member of the Women’s
Leadership Forum. “The report basically says the pool is there, so
now what’s the problem?”

Doyle’s group calculated the Index along with the University’s
Center for the Education of Women.

“A majority of American woman believe they are not given the
same opportunities for advancement” to executive positions, Doyle
said. “There are plenty of women who want those jobs.”

The survey of women in leadership positions is the first ever
conducted at the state level, and its release comes less than two
weeks after the Business School held its 11th annual Women in
Leadership Conference.

Company leaders must discover why educated women in their
companies are not being promoted to leadership positions and
explore both social and economic reasons, said Carol Hollenshead,
director of the Center for the Education of Women.

“We don’t want half of the talent sitting on the sidelines at a
time when Michigan companies need to be competing on a global
level,” Hollenshead said.

Studies have shown that from 1993 to 2001, the number of females
sitting on the boards of the Fortune 500 companies increased by
about 4 percent. But Hollenshead said at that growth rate, “we
would not reach parity for another 75 years. … The change rate
needs to increase.”

After the index was unveiled in Detroit, a panel group discussed
possible explanations for why 46.7 percent of the state’s labor
force is female but only a handful of those women occupy leadership
positions.

Hollenshead said a representative from New York-based Deloitte
and Touche LLP recounted how 10 years ago, the consulting firm’s
leaders realized they were not retaining women. They initially
believed the women were dedicating more time to their families, but
closer inquiries indicated that women were taking positions at
other companies.

“Women were not being given the top assignments in the company,
such as handling the top clients,” she said.

But company executives were not assigning top clients to females
precisely because women frequently left their posts, she said.
Since Deloitte identified this cycle, executives have worked to
improve the company’s female employees’ prospects for advancement,
she said.

Other panelists suggested that managers should consider
different styles of leadership when preparing future executives,
and that company management must be held accountable for promoting
more females, Doyle added.

“There are too many cultural barriers in companies –
particularly older companies – that have been looking at leadership
one way,” she said. Change “is not going to happen neutrally.”

The index assigned scores ranging from zero to 30 to the state’s
100 largest companies based on the number of women sitting on the
company boards or holding top executive positions, with 30 points
equaling full parity between men and women. Of the 24 Fortune 500
companies based in Michigan, only Borders Group scored more than 10
points, according to the Index.

The top 10 companies surveyed – including Compuware Corporation,
Flagstar Bancorp and Pavilion Bancorp – scored between 10 and 24
points. But 33 companies received no points because they had no
women present among their board directors and top officers. Three
of those companies were in the Fortune 500.

The majority of state companies scored from one to nine points
out of 30.

Almost 60 percent of the companies surveyed had at least one
female director, but less than one quarter of the companies had two
or more women on their board, according to the report. More than
three quarters of the companies had no women among their top-five
officers.

Michigan companies shared similar proportions of female
representation on their boards as Fortune 500 companies based in
other states, Doyle said. But Michigan companies have 35 percent
fewer female officers than do Fortune 500 companies, she said.

According to the report, technology groups had a better record
of female representation than other sectors of the state economy.
About a third of the technology sector companies employed at least
one female officer, compared to 10 percent of automotive and
consumer business companies. Sixteen percent of technology
companies also had three or more female directors on their
corporate board.

 

 

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