Editorial

‘Missing pieces’ in West Michigan’s economic stability

May 26, 2017
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The Business Journal is reporting on the findings of a “Missing Pieces” study by Deloitte in conjunction with the Alliance for Board Diversity, measuring the gains made by women on corporate boards in Michigan. The Business Journal suggests that while 25 percent of boards surveyed added a woman to their board in the past year, the focus must be on the reasons for the continued long, slow gains — especially in West Michigan. That focus must extend to minorities overall; the report also notes Caucasian men have been replaced by Caucasian women.

West Michigan is home headquarters to a number of successful women-owned businesses, a fact underscored by the Business Journal Top Women Owned Businesses on a biannual basis, and by the Business Journal Most Influential Women list, for which nominations begin in late summer. Lou Moran, managing partner for Deloitte’s West Michigan office, said diversity is very much on the minds of West Michigan companies. “We oftentimes will get requests from clients to provide names or résumés for diverse candidates when they have openings on their boards,” he said. “West Michigan is a microcosm of what we are seeing nationally.”

Two issues most important to further the miniscule (but celebrated) gains: board officer searches are almost always for CEOs or (more recently) CIOs; and board recruiters may be too narrowly focused in such searches. Women are vastly underrepresented in both top leadership positions, but they may be found just below the C-Suite level in slowly growing numbers. Thanks to groups like Girls Who Code (with active West Michigan chapters) and women tech leaders like Meredith Bronk, CEO and president at OST Inc., seeds for future growth are apparent.

Terry Barclay, president and CEO of Inforum, a Michigan women’s leadership group that conducts the biannual Michigan Women’s Leadership Index, provided the Business Journal one example of looking “outside the box” that was a recent success: a woman who had an engineering background and was a director in an auto company. She mustered the gumption to ask the company chairman and CEO to be her sponsor for a board position and told him what positions she was looking for. Barclay said, “The next time he got a call trying to recruit him, he recommended her and she got the board position. It’s at a major public company, national in scope. That is an example of how to do the strategic networking to get there.”

The Business Journal also underscores the fact making such advancements for women and minorities is critical to the economic well-being of community economies, especially as such positions help close the gender gap in earnings, an increasingly critical factor for women as they mature to retirement.

Expanding the vision is in the community’s best interest and a sustainable economic building block.

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