April 26, 2017; Patriot-News (Harrisburg, PA)
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a resolution on Wednesday that encourages nonprofits and businesses alike to have their boards of directors be 30 percent female at minimum by the end of 2020, measuring their progress toward greater gender balance yearly. It is also highlighting the issues surrounding gender disparities in executive leadership.
The Catalyst Research Center for Equity in Business Leadership has found that boards with more women have fewer governance-related controversies and that they do better financially. Let me repeat that: The Catalyst Research Center for Equity in Business Leadership has found that boards with more women have fewer governance-related controversies and that they do better financially. That means this measure can be framed as economic development.
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State Rep. Kate Harper (R-Montgomery County) says there’s no shortage of highly educated women in the labor force who are more than qualified to take board positions. But, she said, in the largest 100 public corporations in Pennsylvania, women hold only 13 percent of executive positions. Forty-one of those top 100 have no women in executive positions, and 18 of them have no women on their boards.
“It’s just not enough,” Harper said. “It’s not that women necessarily see things differently but women see different things. Our life experiences are different. If we’re not in the room, it’s a problem.”
Pennsylvania follows California, Colorado, Illinois, and Massachusetts in going on record in support of putting more women in executive positions. Still, the Pennsylvania legislature might also want to extend the resolution to government—according to the Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics, at 20 percent representation, it’s one of the nation’s legislatures with the fewest women representing the public.—Ruth McCambridge