Blog Feature

A Rare Commodity: Women at the Top

Image of A Rare Commodity: Women at the Top

Women at the top executive level are a rare commodity. Why and how do we move forward and change the numbers?

This week, I attended Unlocking a Source of Growth: Women in the Boardroom, hosted by Watermark, an event that sought to answer these very questions. The event was held at the Rancho Cordova headquarters of VSP Global, an international vision care company with several senior women leaders including Chief Marketing Officer Kate Renwick Espinosa and Chief Operating Officer of Vision Care Laurie Costa.

Speakers included Dean Steven Currall of the UC Davis Graduate School of Management; Anne Simpson, senior portfolio manager at CalPERS, the nation’s largest public pension fund; and Debbie Soon, senior vice president of strategy & marketing at Catalyst, the leading national nonprofit membership organization expanding opportunities for women and business.

To frame the issue, Amanda Kimball, author of the UC Davis Study of California Women Business Leaders, shared the findings, which shows that overall, women held only 9.7 percent of board seats and highest-paid executive positions in the 400 largest public companies headquartered in the state. Furthermore, more than one-third of the 400 companies had NO women among their board directors or highest-paid executives.

Most shocking was the observation that at the current rate of growth, it will take 100 years to reach parity—an assessment we at UC Davis find  unacceptable.

The Graduate School of Management is committed to diversity at all levels. The Financial Times recently reported that UC Davis is No. 1 among the top 100 business schools in the world with the highest percentage of female faculty, 42%, which is far above the average of 25.3%. And the School has appointed a new chief diversity officer and launched several initiatives to bring more diverse perspectives and backgrounds into its community.

In addition to the UC Davis findings on California, Catalyst’s Debbie Soon brought a fresh set of data to the table from their 2011 Catalyst Census. It reveals that there are only 35 women CEOs in the Fortune 1000, and only 14% of executive officer positions at these largest public companies are held by women.

Diversity = Return on Investment

Recent research provides evidence that the financial performance of a company with a diverse board is better than those with no diversity in their ranks. Another new Catalyst study, The Bottom Line: Corporate Performance and Women’s Representation on Boards (2004–2008), indicates that sustained gender diversity in the boardroom correlates with better corporate performance, and not by just a little.

Companies with three or more women board directors in four of five years, on average, outperformed companies with zero women board directors ―by 84% return on sales, by 60% return on invested capital, and by 46% return on equity, according to Catalyst’s study.

More diversity on boards creates an opportunity to challenge group-think. CalPERS’ Anne Simpson commented that the recent financial crisis was a grotesque version of emperor with no clothes; right now is a good time to rethink the financial crisis and understand what caused it. The International Monetary Fund issued a conclusion that the origins of the financial crisis were due to group-think, and that group-think on boards is the single most dangerous risk to the international financial system.

What’s the next step for women candidates? 

Throughout our discussion, we came up with a list of actionable items for women to follow to promote themselves to a board seat.

By promoting one another and ourselves, seeking support from influencers, and acting with confidence, integrity, and passion, we’ll be able to change the numbers.

The advice:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for plum assignment or a promotion. Be smart about when and how you do it.
  • Find a sponsor with influence who will really advocate for you visibly.
  • Give yourself the opportunity to learn a new job and take risks.
  • Nail down your elevator pitch, and be able to repeat it anywhere, anytime.
  • Be honest about what you bring to a boardroom, and how you bring it.
  • When you find an opportunity you’re qualified for, approach it with confidence and don’t second-guess yourself. Believe it.
  • Network, network, network. Be strategic about who you meet and to whom they can connect you.


Post new comment

927906183389669917 » If you have a visual disability, please type the numbers two one three three into the box. Your submission will be promptly reviewed by a validation service and sent to the site administrators.
By proving you are not a machine, you help us prevent spam and keep the site secure.


Twitter Feed

Loading tweets...
News Release

UC Davis Part-Time MBA Ranked in Nation’s Top 9%
Fourth Consecutive Year among U.S News & World Report's Premier Programs

Image of UC Davis Part-Time MBA Ranked in Nation’s Top 9%

(Davis, CA) — The UC Davis Part-Time MBA program offered in Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area is ranked among the top 9% in the U.S., according to U.S. News & World Report’s latest graduate business school rankings.

At No. 29, this is the fourth consecutive year the UC Davis Part-Time MBA program is among the top AACSB International-accredited part-time MBA programs surveyed. This year, there were 323 part-time MBA programs surveyed.

News Release

UC Davis Full-Time MBA Ranked among Nation’s Premier Programs for 20th Consecutive Year
MBA Programs among Top 10% in U.S.
Record Salary and Bonus

Image of UC Davis Full-Time MBA Ranked among Nation’s Premier Programs for 20th Consecutive Year

(Davis, CA) — The UC Davis Graduate School of Management’s Full-Time MBA program is ranked among the premier business schools in the nation for the 20th consecutive year, according to U.S. News & World Report’s latest graduate business school rankings released today.

U.S. News’ latest ranking places the Full-Time MBA program at No. 48, placing it among the top 10% of the 464 Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International’s accredited full-time MBA programs surveyed.

Key statistics from the School’s Full-Time MBA ranking include:

News Release

UC Davis Graduate School of Management partners with Lawrence Livermore and Sandia National Labs to drive technologies from lab to market

Image of UC Davis Graduate School of Management partners with Lawrence Livermore and Sandia National Labs to drive technologies from lab to market

(Davis, Calif.) – With a joint goal of speeding the transfer of new technologies from the laboratory to the commercial marketplace, the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories have announced a new partnership for researchers to develop their entrepreneurial skills.

Spotlight Story

Vickie Sherman MBA 13 Finds Her Passion, Her Career—and Herself

Image of Vickie Sherman MBA 13 Finds Her Passion, Her Career—and Herself

What opportunities, decisions, events have shaped your professional life?

My career path has been a climb across a jungle gym rather than a tangent up a corporate ladder. As a child, I used to thumb through the three-inch JCPenney catalogue, picking out the professional women who I would grow to be. I wanted to rule the world from a corner office in a suit and heels. I wanted to shed my humble origins and become Corporate Barbie.

Spotlight Story

MBA Student Consultants Make an IMPACT
Projects Put Business Needs Front and Center

Image of MBA Student Consultants Make an IMPACT

Agilent Technologies’ Electronic Measurement Group is a $3.6 billion business that over the past decade has seen a dramatic shift in its customer base from U.S., and Western European customers to predominantly Asia-based customers. Today, the majority of the division’s revenues are generated outside of the U.S., with an increasing concentration in China.