Glass ceiling intact for Michigan's businesswomen

October 17, 2009
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A group of business leaders in Michigan is challenging the state’s companies and women to focus on the steps necessary to expand women’s roles in executive ranks, as the state struggles its way out of the economic quagmire.

The Inforum Center for Leadership’s biennial Women’s Leadership Index showed minimal progress in a few categories since the first study in 2003. The 2009 study was conducted by the College of Business at Eastern Michigan University.

Mostly, the movement of women into executive chairs and board rooms at Michigan companies has been stagnant, the report stated. The WLI study found a 1 percent decrease in women executives since 2007.

The 2009 report is the topic for an Inforum event at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Keynote speaker is Claire Shipman, co-author of “Womenomics: Write Your Own Rules for Success” and senior national correspondent for ABC News’ “Good Morning America.”

Registration information is available at or by phone at (877) 633-3500. A similar event is planned for 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Ritz-Carlton in Dearborn.

What the study found:

**More than half of the Michigan Index 100 companies have at least one woman director, yet just 83 of the 866 board seats available at those firms are held by women, a rate of 9.6 percent that has remained unchanged since 2003.

**The number of women in board seats at Michigan Fortune 500 companies has improved to 16.1 percent from 14.3 percent in 2007. Women hold 31 of 192 Fortune 500 board positions.

**In the entire state, 41 women are among the five most-highly compensated executives at their companies. They comprise 9.4 percent of the 435 such jobs. Three of them work at Fortune 500 companies.

**In Michigan’s top 100 public companies, women claim 56 of 533 executive positions, or 10.5 percent.

**Women fill CEO spots in three companies in the index’s Top 100. In 2007, the number was zero.

“While it is heartening to see some progress, such as in the number of female CEOs, clearly there is a lot of progress to be made,” said Terry Barclay, CEO of Inforum and of the Inforum Center for Leadership. Women hold about half of payroll jobs in the U.S., yet their movement into the top ranks does not reflect their huge role in the work force, she added. In Michigan in 2007, women comprised 47.5 percent of the workforce, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Women corporate leaders are a key resource that remains dormant,” added EMU Associate Professor of Management Megan Endres.

“Michigan’s corporate leaders should use the Index to study their competitors. Which have women executives? Women directors? These are the competitors who are building a unique strategic resource to compete against you.”

Inforum cites 2008 research from McKinsey  & Co. that shows that companies with at least three women in senior management score better on organizational criteria and those without senior-level women.

Only Compuware Corp. has consistently scored in the top category of “Most Valuable Players” for the Women’s Leadership Index since the first report six years ago.

Among the Most Valuable Players for 2009 is Green Energy Live Inc., a biofuel company based in Wyoming and led by President and CEO Karen Clark. Also on this year’s list is Kelly Services, Pulte Homes, Birmingham Bloomfield Bancshares, CNB Corp. and Southern Michigan Bancorp.

Real estate companies had the highest index scores, with an average of 8.3; automotive and non-automotive manufacturing scored the lowest, with WLI index scores of 2.1 and 2.2 respectively.

The full report is available at the Inforum Web site.

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