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Women’s representation on Md. company boards nearly stagnant in 2022

‘No one is moving out of those seats to let others in,’ says Executive Alliance Executive Director Rebecca Snyder. (Submitted Photo)

Public companies in Maryland have made few strides to include more women on their boards of directors in recent years, according to Executive Alliance’s 2022 Census Report.  

The organization, which releases a yearly report evaluating women’s representation on boards, said that women hold only 23% of the board seats across the state’s 72 publicly traded companies. This figure is only a slight increase from 22% last year and remains lower than the percentage of S&P 500 company board seats — 30% this year — that are held by women.

Women of color make up only 4.3% of directors in the state, also a slight increase from 3.4% last year, while 5.7% of directors of Fortune 500 companies are women of color.

Additionally, Executive Alliance found that five companies have no female directors at all, a decrease from seven companies the previous cycle.

Executive Alliance Executive Director Rebecca Snyder said a lack of age or term limits is a barrier to the advancement of diversity on boards — and a major reason why progress is inching forward so slowly. 

“No one is moving out of those seats to let others in,” she said, noting that most boards of publicly traded companies in Maryland — 78% — do not impose term limits. 

Not all female representation is made equal, however. Only 20 companies, or 27.8% of the companies analyzed by Executive Alliance, received the organization’s “Honor Roll” designation by having boards that are at least 20% women and having women in at least 20% of their executive-level leadership positions (women make up 68, or 17%, of the C-suite positions at public Maryland companies, and eight companies are helmed by woman CEOs). This is a slight increase from last year’s census, when 18 companies made the cut.

On the flip side, 25 companies — 35% of those reviewed — have only a single woman on their board, a phenomenon that Executive Alliance refers to “token representation.” 

This is significant, Snyder said, because research has shown that it takes three members of a marginalized group, like women or people of color, to be included for those individuals to begin feeling comfortable making their voices heard. 

 “If you’re the only representation of that otherness, so to speak, in the room, your behavior is different. You’re judging yourself. It’s difficult to bring your full self,” she said. 

Still, she notes that some of Maryland’s public companies are quite small, with boards of directors that have as few as three seats. For those companies, having one woman director can make a much more substantial impact. 

In addition to analyzing publicly traded companies, Executive Alliance also looked into the private sector for this year’s census in order to help place the public companies’ data within a larger economic context. 

Executive Alliance selected the 10 largest universities, nonprofits and health care organizations in the state, according to the Baltimore Business Journal, and found that 28 out of the 30 organizations it reviewed successfully made the Honor Roll. 

But Snyder noted that these honorees, which include institutions like Carroll Community College, Sinai Hospital and the Baltimore Museum of Art, are largely public-facing, community-oriented organizations that may have more incentive than most to ensure their boards are representative of their broader communities.  

In the future, Executive Alliance plans to switch to a nomination system to choose which private-sector companies and nonprofits the organization will research, in hopes of seeing if this year’s impressive trends are present throughout the private sector. 

“There’s a little ‘dot dot dot’ there,” she said. “To be continued.”