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Mark Stoeckle, the CEO of both The Adams Express Co. and Petroleum & Resource Corp., accepts an award from Network 2000 Thursday. (The Daily Record/Alissa Gulin)

Network 2000 continues push for gender equality in business

Women still lag well behind in top jobs, Network 2000 says

The male CEO who was honored for his commitment to female leadership told about 800 people Thursday that having 20 percent of top positions filled by women — as do his companies — is still unacceptable.

Mark Stoeckle, the CEO of both The Adams Express Co. and Petroleum & Resource Corp., told the audience at Network 2000’s annual Women of Excellence luncheon that companies must do a better job of achieving gender equality.

Though progress has been made over the past several years to increase the number of women board members and executives in Maryland, the state has a long way to go to achieve gender equality, according to Network 2000, an organization dedicated to promoting the advancement of women in business.

In fact, Maryland companies are still pretty far off from Network 2000’s goal of having 20 percent of total board seats in the state filled by women by the year 2020.

This year, women filled 13.3 percent of total board seats.

Perhaps a good illustration of the issue is the fact that Network 2000 honored Stoeckle’s two companies with the “Business 2000 Award,” which is given to a business that exemplifies the organization’s goals — even though the vast majority of board seats at those firms are filled by men.

At those two companies, 20 percent of senior leadership positions are filled by women, while 25 percent of board seats are filled by women (both companies have the same board).

Stoeckle accepted the award Thursday but made clear that he thinks the business community — both men and women — should demand a greater emphasis on diversity.

Only eight Maryland companies have women filling at least 20 percent of board seats and at least 20 percent of C-suite positions, according to Network 2000’s census report from this past year.

Fifteen companies have no women on their boards or in their executive suites, the census found.

Network 2000 will release its 2015 census report in the April or May.

The organization’s luncheon featured Elizabeth Cohen, a senior medical correspondent for CNN, as guest speaker. Cohen weaved together tales of courageous women from across the globe whom she encountered while covering stories for CNN, including the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Her stories were about nurses, patients, mothers with sick children. All were let down, in one way or another, by their health care system. And all of them, Cohen said, shared a common trait: an unwillingness to stand back and let others decide their fate.

Cohen, who is also the author of “The Empowered Patient,” urged attendees (the vast majority of whom were women) to take their health care into their own hands. That same mindset should also be applied to professional settings, she said.

When asked by an audience member whether individual women or existing business leaders are more responsible for boosting the percentage of female leaders, Cohen responded in no uncertain terms.

“It seems to me that there is intrinsic value in having more women and people of color [in leadership roles],” she said. “So you’d think it would behoove those companies to make those inclusions on their own without being bugged into doing it.”

About Alissa Gulin

Alissa Gulin covers health care, education and general business at The Daily Record.