COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Lawmakers in Annapolis are calling attention to a gender diversity deficiency in Maryland’s boardrooms and influential private sector companies: Women are not being equally represented in top management positions.
Women make up 49 percent of the labor force in Maryland and 46.8 percent of the total U.S. labor force, according to the Maryland Commission for Women.
In 2016, a “Census of Women Board Directors in Maryland” by a Baltimore-based women’s advocacy group found that 14.6 percent of board seats at 77 publicly traded companies headquartered in the state were held by women.
Within those 77 companies, 10 had no women in executive positions or in their executive suites. The number decreased from 14 companies in 2015, according to that “Census.”
Overall, the number of women holding board seats from 2015 to 2016 increased by three, to 93 women directors, the Census found.
House and Senate joint resolutions urge all private-sector companies in Maryland to increase their gender diversity. Supporters hope that by December 2021, at least 30 percent of the directors of all companies doing business in the state will be women, and that companies measure their annual progress toward a goal of equal representation of men and women in leadership positions, according to the resolutions.
Both resolutions have been heard in their chambers’ respective committees, but by Wednesday afternoon had not advanced.
The resolutions were prompted by request by the Executive Alliance, an organization based in Baltimore that focuses on the success and leadership of accomplished women, according to Delegate Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore, lead sponsor of the House resolution.
The group put out their 10th “Census of Women Board Directors in Maryland” this year, said Karen Bond, president of the Executive Alliance Board and executive director of Boys Hope Girls Hope of Baltimore.
“We were shocked … to see how the needle had barely moved at all (from previous years),” said Bond of the Census findings.
“We felt we needed to go to our lawmakers and ask ‘Is this level of progress acceptable to you?’” added Bond.
“We have to break down those mythical barriers that have always existed and reach out to all of the successful women running companies…or we will never make it to the 30 percent (goal),” said Avis Yates River, president and CEO of Technology Concepts Group International, and a former executive at Exxon.
“There is a lot of value into investing in women entrepreneurs,” said Betty Hines, founder and CEO of the Women Elevating Women Symposium and Chapter Chair for the Women Presidents’ Organization, a nonprofit organization for women presidents of multimillion-dollar companies.
Hines acknowledged Maryland as a leader that has made many strides for gender equality, including having a greater percentage than the national average of women in the workforce, but also noted that to stay ahead the state must continue making progress.
“When corporate boards meet, each board member should bring a guest from outside and get to know them/ help give them more experience…I know many women who are more than qualified and deserve a seat at the table,” said Hines.