McCormick Group Senior Vice President Lyles Carr spoke to the Washington Post about increasing gender diversity in the boardroom.
By Abha Bhattarai | November 3, 2016
Despite a widespread push in recent years to add diversity to the boardroom, the Washington area continues to lag the rest of the country in its representation of women on corporate boards, according to a report being released Thursday.
Women hold 14 percent of board positions at publicly-traded companies in Maryland, Virginia and the District, compared with 17.9 percent nationally, according to a study by the Kogod School of Business at American University.
“When you start to look at the boards at Washington’s largest companies, you start to see a cadre of retired executives — and most of them are male,” said Jill Klein, an assistant dean at the Kogod School, who oversaw the report. “Progress has been glacial.”
The percentage of women on local boards inched up from 12.7 percent last year and 10 percent in 2012, according to the Kogod report, commissioned by Women in Technology, a Falls Church-based nonprofit.
Twenty-five percent of the region’s 250 publicly-traded companies do not have a single women on their boards, down from 52 percent in 2010, the report said. Among them: the data analytics firm MicroStrategy in Tysons Corner, the technology firm ePlus in Herndon and government contractor CACI International in Arlington. The three companies did not respond to requests for comment.
Studies have shown that even one woman in the boardroom can help steer businesses to higher sales and revenue. But, research shows, a “critical mass” of three or more women in the boardroom makes for a more open and collaborative environment.
“The more women you have on a board, the freer you feel to speak up,” said Debra L. Lee, chairman and chief executive of BET Networks, who is on the boards of Marriott International, WGL Holdings and Twitter. “When you’re the only one, every time you open your mouth you’re being seen as ‘the woman’ on the board.”
A handful of local companies currently have four women on their boards. They include WGL Holdings — the District-based parent company of Washington Gas — as well as Marriott and Lockheed Martin, which are based in Bethesda.
Among companies with three women on their boards: media company Gannett and defense contractors ICF International and General Dynamics.
“It’s not about check-the-box diversity, but about more thoughtfully-constructed boards,” said Lyles Carr, senior vice president of the McCormick Group, an Arlington-based executive search consulting firm. “Once that’s your focus, you’ll end up with people who don’t just look like your proverbial golfing buddies.”
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