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Progress slow for women on boards but there are standout companies

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According to data collected from 70 Maryland companies by the Executive Alliance from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018, women held 17% (101 of 602) board seats. That is below the 2017 national average of 22%. (Deposit photos)

While women continue to gain seats in publically-traded company board rooms across the state, progress continues at a slow rate, according to Executive Alliance’s 2019 Census Report.

Looking at data collected from 70 companies between July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018, women held 101 board seats out of 602 total (17%). This figure is below the 2017 national average of 22% with women holding 1,051 board positions out of 3,673.

While 55 companies (79%) have at least one woman director, 15 still have none and only 14 board seats (2%) are held by women of color. There are 19 companies (27%) that have 25% or more women directors while 31 companies (44%) have 20% or more women directors.
There are several companies across Maryland that stand out for the inclusion of women on company boards.

McCormick

Out of 10 positions on McCormick’s board of directors, three are held by women. The spice, seasoning and food product company, which dates back 130 years, also has two female executive officers on the seven position team.

“We’ve had a long history of having a great culture and being a great place to work,” said Lori Robinson, Vice President of corporate branding, communications and community relationships. “Part of that is because we’ve got this fundamental belief that we want to develop people and give folks the opportunity to grow and learn.”

A few years ago, the company recognized they were attracting women to entry-level and mid-tier positions but didn’t have as many in the leadership pipeline at the senior level as they wanted. Lisa Manzone, senior Vice President of human relations, and the management committee implemented a strategy to help bring top talent up and through the organization as well as attract talent.

“We have been very successful in getting that strategy going both here in the U.S. and globally,” Robinson said. “At the board level, it is the same thing. We believe that a diverse board is also more innovative and can really help our company continue to grow and thrive in the long term.”

The company has set a global goal to have 50% women in all of their leadership positions by 2025.

“We will get it very holistically but we know what gets measured gets done so it has been a great conversation that we have been able to have based upon that measure because that drives how we look at our candidates, how we are able to look at our systems whether it is around promotions or development opportunities things of that nature to ensure there is equal representation,” Manzone said.

Some of the internal mechanisms to recruit women include a robust talent review process where they identify a pipeline of qualified candidates internally for positions. They also have a number of leadership development programs including Ignite which is specifically developed for women. The global program recruits some of the top women to go through a specialized program to help them navigate the organization, receive mentoring and help them think about their development areas and increase their exposure to leadership.

Out of around 70 participants, 20% have been promoted or moved on to another developmental experience. Participants have told Manzone, “I would have never put my hand in for that promotion had I not gone through the Ignite program because I would have never thought I was ready.

“We hear a lot that women don’t raise their hand until they think they are 100% ready where men will raise their hand when they are about 60% ready,” Manzone said. “That is one example how we are getting women to think differently about their own aspirations and their own opportunities.”

We hear a lot that women don’t raise their hand until they think they are 100% ready where men will raise their hand when they are about 60% ready. That is one example how we are getting women to think differently about their own aspirations and their own opportunities.”

— Lisa Manzone, McCormick senior vice president of human relations

Marriott International

Marriott International has more than 7,000 hotels around the world and its 14-member corporate board includes five women. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the company’s Women Leadership Development Initiative which focuses on leadership development, mentoring, networking and responsive workplace policies.

“I think it is important to understand that Marriott has a very strong people-first culture,” said Maruiel Perkins-Chavis, Vice President of workforce engagement and global diversity and inclusion. “A big part of that is ensuring that we not only make people feel welcome but inclusion plays a big role and is foundational.”

Over the years, the company has found success in creating a variety of leadership programs including ones to enable women to build their management skill sets. Perkins-Chavis notes their emerging leader program, which has been in place for about five years, has helped build a pipeline of talent and get staff ready for various leadership roles within the organization.

“You are looking at talent that has demonstrated the ability to accelerate to higher levels of responsibility within the organization,” she said.

Tricia Primrose, Marriott’s Global Chief Communications and Public Affairs Officer, notes that when your company is in a consumer-facing business, they look at the people who use their products.

“We look at the guests who stay at our hotels,” she said. “We want our company, our board, our leadership to reflect the people we serve. We need to think about inclusion across all different aspects.”

One of the core tenants the hotel brand’s founders handed down nearly 100 years ago was being welcoming to all.

“We want to be a place that really great people from all walks of life, all backgrounds, all cultures (can enjoy). … The best way to do that as a company is to make sure the people who work for this company reflect and mirror the guests that we serve.”

We want to be a place that really great people from all walks of life, all backgrounds, all cultures (can enjoy). … The best way to do that as a company is to make sure the people who work for this company reflect and mirror the guests that we serve.”

— Tricia Primrose, Marriott’s Global Chief Communications and Public Affairs Officer

First United Bank and Trust

With 11 members, First United Bank and Trust has four women on its board with President and CEO Carissa Rodeheaver serving as chair. The bank, which has 25 branches throughout Maryland and West Virginia, also has four women on its executive team.

“Diversity is really just one of the things that we look for with respect to our board members,” Rodeheaver said. “I think the biggest reason that I would say is for diversity of thought.”

When selecting board members, they also look for people from different industries, backgrounds and work experience including business owners and those who are in the corporate world.

Every employee at the bank has an Individual Development Plan which gives them the opportunity to talk with management discussing their skill sets and long terms career goals. “It gives us the ability to really get a sense of what people are looking for,” Rodeheaver said.

They also offer formal mentoring programs for new employees as well as encouraging informal mentoring as well. Rodeheaver notes she has had several women ask her to have career conversations as well as give mentoring advice.

“I certainly have an open-door policy,” she said. “I am always interested in having those conversations with them.”

When recruiting members for their board, the bank asks shareholders to provide names to consider but they also have an advisory group in each of their regions.

“We really look to people coming onto that advisory group as a feeder into the board for the full board positions,” Rodeheaver said.

The bank also offers three different levels of leadership programs for men and women. The senior leadership group, begun four years ago, takes classes and meets with different executive team members.

“We use that leadership team to pull from for a lot of the projects we have,” Rodeheaver said.

The emerging leaders group, founded two years ago, is for staff who may not necessarily be in management but have shown potential and interest in moving into leadership positions. This year, they began a one-year leadership class open to every employee to learn about management. Rodeheaver notes this class is split evenly between men and women.

We use that leadership team to pull from for a lot of the projects we have.”

— Carissa Rodeheaver, First United Bank and Trust President and CEO

This article is featured in The Daily Record and Executive Alliance's Women's Leadership Resource Guide 2019-2020. 

Full coverage: Progress slow for women on boards but there are standout companies | Women on boards: Creating the pathway and pipeline | New ‘gender diversity in the boardroom’ law places Maryland companies on notice

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