The new 2009 Female FTSE Report from Cranfield School of Management in Britain shows a decline from last year in the number of women ceo's and the number of companies with multiple women directors on their boards. Ironically, UC Davis Graduate School of Management released their new annual report on the same day showing a slight decline from last year of women holding board seats in California companies. This got me thinking. Whichever side of the ocean you’re on, the annual surveys show little or no progress by women in the corporate world. The economic crisis has people thinking about jobs and the government is thinking about healthcare. Who is thinking about the progress of women? I am for one. As an experienced executive with a background in auditing and management, I can tell you that the incremental changes measured by these annual surveys will not shine enough light on the issue. These surveys need to add another measure, like goals set in specific responses from companies for example. What are they going to try to do this next year to make it change? Without these kinds of goals and measures, annual surveys will not be able to put enough pressure on companies and are wasting an opportunity to help effect positive change. If there is no action taken as a consequence of the surveys, the status quo becomes acceptable. These surveys are one of the tools we have to effect change. While it is not the responsibility of academia to pressure corporate executives, it would be great if they could!
As I watch the economic turmoil create lots of openings for new ceos and reconstituted boards, I don’t see women being put in these jobs in any big number. It is clearly not for a lack of openings. And, if you read NewsonWomen.com, you will know that it is clearly not for a lack of qualified women or female role models. Why is it that people won’t move away from their traditional candidates for these positions? If anyone has an answer, I’d like to hear it.