Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

More boards in Maryland add women

The number of public companies in Maryland with at least one woman board member and executive officer increased by nine in 2011 from 2010, according to a report by Network 2000 Inc.

The 2012 Census of Women Board Directors in Maryland, which looked at 84 public companies during fiscal year 2011, showed several increases in the number of women in the upper echelon of the business world — an improvement over last year’s census, which found mostly declines. The report was released last Wednesday.

Of the 715 board seats in Maryland, 73 are held by women. That is 1.1 percent more than in the last census, when the figure was 65 out of 708 seats.

The percentage of companies where 20 percent or more board and executive officers are women not only increased by 5 percentage points but it also is higher than any of the previous censuses at 11.9 percent.

Analyzing the increase, Network 2000 President Ellen Fish said five of the six companies that are new to the census, which only looks at companies on the AMEX, NYSE and NASDAQ exchanges, have at least one woman board member, while the majority of those that dropped off the census have no women board members.

Fish also said that in the past, Network 2000 focused on transparency as a way to increase the number of women in high-ranking positions, but that is going to change.

“Now we are saying we want more than transparency. Now people need to be sitting around the table and talking about how to move the needle,” Fish said.

Fish said that one way to move that needle is for companies to offer more sponsorship opportunities for women.

A sponsorship is when a senior official at a company gives hand-on assistance to, and actively advocates for, a lower-ranking employee. Sponsors put their own credibility on the line, recommending candidates for projects and helping them network.

Fish cited a 2010 study by the New York-based Center for Work-Life Policy called “The Sponsor Effect: Breaking Through the Last Glass Ceiling,” which suggested that sponsorship is the way for more women to make it to high-level positions.

Last year, a conference on The Sponsor Effect study looked at how to increase the number of women board members and executives. The conference included representatives from Fortune 500 companies such as American Express Co. and Intel Corp.

Fish said she’d like to see Baltimore CEOs engage in similar forums.

Network 2000’s census also included the results of a study published in 2011 that found a positive correlation between the number of women directors at a company and that company’s financial performance.

The study — “The Bottom Line: Corporate Performance and Women’s Representation on Boards” by New York-based Catalyst Inc. — looked at Fortune 500 companies between 2004 and 2008.

The study found that:

-Companies with the most women directors have a 16 percent higher return on sales, and a 26 percent higher return on invested capital than their peers with fewer women directors.

-Companies with three or more women directors have an 84 percent higher return on sales, a 60 percent higher return on invested capital and a 46 percent higher return on equity than their peers with fewer directors.