On February 22, the Lundquist College of Business will once again host the annual Women in Business Gala, which brings together fifty women business professionals and pairs them with fifty undergraduate female business students. This is the seventh time this signature event will be held at the Lillis Business Complex. This year’s keynote speaker is Kelley Bloom, Key Bank’s vice president of commercial banking and district leader of Key4Women.
As I began preparing opening remarks for the gala, I was reminded of something David Gergen, director of Harvard University’s Center for Public Leadership said at a conference some years ago: “Closing the leadership gap between men and women is one of the central challenges of this century.” He went on to say, “To have so many talented women and so few women leaders is just wrong.”
To see what progress has been made toward closing the gender gap, I turned to Catalyst, a leading nonprofit membership organization focused on expanding opportunities for women in business. Founded in 1962, with offices in the United States, Canada, Europe, and India--and more than 500 preeminent corporations as members--Catalyst is the trusted resource for research, information, and advice about women at work.
I was not prepared for what I found. According to the 2011 Catalyst Census: Fortune 500 Women Board Directors, Executive Officers, and Top Earners and prior Catalyst censuses, women have made no significant gains in the last year and are no further along the corporate ladder than they were six years ago:
- Women held 16.1 percent of board seats in 2011, compared to 15.7 percent in 2010
- Fewer than one in five companies had 25 percent or more women board directors
- Approximately one in ten companies had no women serving on their boards
- Women of color still held only 3 percent of corporate board seats
- Women held 14.1 percent of executive officer positions in 2011, compared to 14.4 percent in 2010
- Women held only 7.5 percent of executive officer top-earner positions in 2011, while men accounted for 92.5 percent of top earners
- Fewer than one in five companies had 25 percent or more women executive officers and more than one-quarter had zero
What’s even more interesting is that sustained gender diversity in the boardroom correlates significantly with better corporate performance, according to another Catalyst report, The Bottom Line: Corporate Performance and Women’s Representation on Boards (2004-2008). Specifically, the report shows that companies with three or more women board directors in four of five years, on average, outperformed companies with zero women board directors--by 84 percent return on sales, 60 percent return on invested capital, and 46 percent return on equity. The implication is clear--companies have much to gain by taking action to advance talented women.
And that holds true at the Lundquist College of Business as well. Historically, three out of ten members on our Board of Advisors have been women--beating the above averages reported by Catalyst. With our board in transition, and the creation of two new advisory boards, we are on target to continue this trend. In addition, we now have three assistant deans (out of seven) who are female, and we’ve made recent significant hires in key executive-level positions at the college, with Katie Rohrer heading up our fundraising and development efforts and Rebecca Monro, joining us as the new Assistant Dean of the MBA Program.
Of course, not all we have to share with you is good news. At the undergraduate level, our female enrollment is 37 percent, which compares to an average of 42 percent at all accredited business schools, as reported in the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business’s Business School Data Trends and 2011 List of Accredited Schools.* At the MBA level, we fare better, with a 39 percent female enrollment compared to the AACSB average of 37 percent. These are areas we will explore ways to improve.
I am pleased that we have made some strides to help close the gender gap in the business world but realize there is more which needs to be done. The Lundquist College of Business continues to be aware of the need to support women in business and in business school. We will not shy away from confronting these challenges head on. Through our efforts to support and encourage all of our students, we ensure our ability to provide businesses with a pipeline of talented employees--regardless of gender--who have opportunities to advance and contribute to society. It’s the smart thing and the right thing to do.
Cornelis A. "Kees" de Kluyver
Dean and James and Shirley Rippey Distinguished Professor