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Women on Boards — Token or True Diversity?

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Women on Boards — Token or True Diversity?

Women on Boards — Token or True Diversity?

I suspect female board members don’t speak up about the gender bias they experience for the same reason I never spoke up about sexual harassment or other gender issues as I climbed the corporate ladder in the eighties — it is the equivalent of career suicide.

Recently, Elizabeth Dolan described her experience as a sole woman on a board of directors at Quick Silver in a Fortune blog post and also to Huffington Post after she quit her post. Her revelations confirm what we intuitively know:

  • Being physically present does not always get your voice heard, and
  • Often it takes multiple people with similar views before these views become incorporated into a group.

Dolan sites being shut out of the decision to replace the company’s CEO, even though that is a major role of being a board member — she actually learned of the CEO’s termination after it had occurred via email.

She also talked about tokenism as a means of narrowing what value you add to the conversation as solely to “represent” your minority, rather than the business savvy you bring to the table as a full member of the team. Dolan has held key top positions at Nike and OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) so she is no newbie to the corporate world; yet, her experience on Quick Silver’s board left her feeling she was there solely to help them look good, not to do the work. She quit this past May and has been speaking out about the need for three or more female board members to actually affect change.

Today, however, we have more capacity to change this than in the 1980’s when I, along with hundreds of other women worked hard to prove we were good enough for the top positions.

  • One of the ways you can influence it is to know who you are buying products from — both personal and business purchases. And now there is an app — Buy Up Index — that will help you evaluate the companies you buy from, the number of women on their boards, and their gender neutral policies.
  • We also have social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook were we can make our concerns known to companies on the corporate pages.

Look for ways to support companies that have three or more women on their boards. The more we make our collective voice heard that this is important to our purchasing choices the faster businesses will wake up and listen.


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