January 12, 2015
I recently read an article discussing a pending law in Germany that would require that nation’s largest public companies to allocate 30% of the seats on their non-executive Boards to women. It was surprising that the nation with Europe’s largest economy which has had a female leader for years still found it necessary to put through this legislation. Germany’s action follows similar laws passed in Norway, France, Spain and the Netherlands, among others, while Sweden is considering their own such initiative.
While we may feel that the situation is not the same here in the United States, the facts show that female representation on Boards is still lacking. According to Catalyst, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to expand opportunities for women and business, the United States ranks 9th on the list of percentage of Board seats held by women. While this may sound positive, when one sees that only 16.9% of Board seats in the U.S. are held by women, it becomes clear that there’s still a lot of ground to be made up.
Corporate Boards and association Boards are not the same, but the trends we see in the corporate world are often echoed in the nonprofit world. There have been great strides made in diversity in the workforce, but the top leadership positions in both companies and associations are most often filled by males. Having diversity on your Board brings different points of view and experiences to the decision-making process.
“While I do not think quotas are the answer, helping organizations value women as Board members could broaden their nominating process to include diversity as one of the criteria to consider for finding candidates,” said Claire Rosenzweig, President & CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Metropolitan New York. “Seeking women who meet their organization’s criteria should be a regular part of the process,” she added.
While imposing mandated quotas may be extreme and probably not a desirable course of action in the United States, Abby Rosmarin, JD, LMHC, suggests that having additional women representation on Boards would bring enough benefits to companies that there could be a compelling state interest to passing such legislation. Abby is the Executive Director of the New York Association of Collaborative Professionals.
Both Claire Rosenzweig and Abby Rosmarin are active participants in the Executive Women in Nonprofits Shared Interest Group (SIG) an initiative of the New York Society of Association Executives. These are the types of forums that women who are interested in getting onto Boards should seek out so that they can meet with and be mentored by other women who are already on Boards and serve in leadership positions.
How do you ensure that your Board of Directors has a diverse makeup? Has your organization ever considered enacting its own quota to encourage diversity?