Progress is incremental for women leaders

October 28, 2011
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Women’s leadership roles among the top 100 public companies in Michigan are improving, but just barely.

The 2011 Michigan Women’s Leadership Index, a biennial report issued by the Inforum Center for Leadership, indicates that while progress is slow, it’s still being made.

“Relative to their work force participation, women remain very much underrepresented in the executive suites and boardrooms of Michigan’s top 100 publicly held companies,” said Terry Barclay, president and CEO of Inforum. “But the numbers also show significant — if painfully slow — progress since the first MWLI report was compiled in 2003.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2010 women comprised 47 percent of the total U.S. labor force with nearly 72 million women age 16 and older working. The largest percentage of employed women, nearly 41 percent, worked in management, professional and related occupations, where they accounted for 51.5 percent of all workers in those professions.

With more women entering the work force, Barclay said, the index is marking progress in terms of leadership and pay.

“For example, the number of companies (in Michigan’s top 100) with at least one woman among the top-compensated executives increased to 36 in 2011, compared with 24 in 2003,” she said. “And, among Fortune 500 companies in Michigan, women hold 35 (17.86 percent) of the total 196 board seats, up from 12.1 percent in 2003.”

The MWLI provides a snapshot of the combined presence of women on boards and within the top five compensated officers of companies. It was conducted by the College of Business at Eastern Michigan University.

Comparing this year’s figures to those that comprised the 2003 report, the progress of Michigan companies in appointing female board members and top-level executives has been steady, even if it has not been dramatic.

The 2011 MWLI report states:

  • More than half of the Michigan top 100 companies have at least one woman director (53 percent).

  • Women comprise one-third of the board of directors for five of the Michigan top 100 companies: Community Shores Bank Corp., Eternal Image Inc., General Motors, Kelly Services and Steelcase.

  • Four companies have four women directors: General Motors, Steelcase, Kelly Services and The Dow Chemical Co. One company, Spartan Stores, has three women directors.

Progress on the pay side has been slower, according to this year’s report. Forty-one women (8.2 percent) are among the top 500 highest compensated executive officers, which is a decrease from 9.4 percent in 2009.

Other findings include:

  • From a total of 662 executive positions named in SEC documents, the women top earners comprise only 6.19 percent, which is a decrease from 7.7 percent in 2009.

  • One company, Citizens Republic Bancorp, has three women among its top five compensated individuals, while three others — Community Shores Bank, Compuware and Kaydon Corp. — have two women among their top five compensated executives.

  • Only three companies among the top 100 have a woman CEO: Citizens Republic Bancorp, CNB Corp. and Community Shores Bank.

Barclay said that perhaps the best sign of progress is that the number of companies with no women executives decreased significantly, from 59 in 2009 to 49 this year, and the number of companies with no women among the top five compensated officers decreased from 79 in 2005 to 64 in both 2009 and 2011.

“The purpose of the MWLI is to make sure women’s leadership stays on the agenda and to report on the progress made,” she said. “I think we can honestly say that things are moving in the right direction.”

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