Women Executive Leadership Urges Action as National Study Shows Corporate Gender Imbalance Persists

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Yesterday, research giant Catalyst released the 2011 Catalyst Census: Fortune 500 Women Board Directors, Executive Officers and Top Earners study and although their findings state that women have made no significant gains in the last year and are no further along the corporate ladder than they were six years ago, Florida has seen the largest increase, at 5%, in the percentage of women executive officers making their way into the boardroom. Women Executive Leadership, a Florida-based organization is committed to seeing the needle move on this issue.

"We’re pleased that Florida is seeing progress in key positions within the C-suite; however, much work remains to achieve true gender equity."

As a new national study shows gender imbalance persists in the attainment of executive and director positions with major companies, South Florida’s Women Executive Leadership (WEL) urged more involvement in efforts to eliminate the inequity.

The 2011 Annual Report from the InterOrganization Network (ION) shows that gender imbalance remains a crucial issue in the corporate world, although several pockets of progress offer reasons for encouragement. Among the study’s findings, Florida reported the largest increase, at 5 percent, in the number of women executive officers as compared with 2010. At the same time, corporations nationally are missing opportunities at the board level, appointing women to new director positions only 16.1 percent of the time.

Women Executive Leadership is an affiliate of ION, a national nonprofit organization representing more than 10,000 women dedicated to increasing the number of women on for-profit boards and in executive suites.

“We’re pleased that Florida is seeing progress in key positions within the C-suite; however, much work remains to achieve true gender equity,” said Laura Marks, executive director of WEL.

And while the Florida findings included in the ION study show welcome changes in key benchmarks, WEL’s 2011 Census of Women Directors and Executive Officers shows that women remain underrepresented in Florida’s on top 100 company boards compared with Fortune 500 companies in the state :

  •     Forty-two of Florida’s top 100 public companies have no women on their board of directors. That compares with only three of the Florida-based Fortune 500 companies who have no women directors.
  •     Only 9.3 percent of Florida director seats are filled by women, compared with 13.4 percent of director seats in Florida-based Fortune 500 companies.

“The shortfall among top Florida companies represents an opportunity, both for the companies and for professional women, to change the profile of corporate boards in the state by leveraging the experience, skills and knowledge to be found within a seemingly untapped resource of board-ready female executives,” Marks said.

WEL recently hosted a day-long workshop for women seeking greater advancement in corporate board settings, with Susan Stautberg, co-founder of Women Corporate Directors and the OnBoard Bootcamp offering training under the most recognized platform of education available to make professional women more successful in these efforts. This program, along with others that will follow it in the coming year, represents WEL’s commitment to the advancement of professional women in South Florida.

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NIKKI DEAS
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