Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Back-Handed Compliment

Remember Carol Hymowitz of the Wall St. Journal fame? On March 24, 1986, she and
Timothy Schellhardt use the phrase "glass ceiling" to describe the limits women faced rising the corporate ladder. Up until the end of last year, she wrote the WSJ column, "In The Lead," where she continued the arguments that "Women Can't, Won't, or Don't."

However, for the past year Ms. Hymowitz has had a new gig, focusing on the achievements of contemporary women in leadership. See her continuing impressive work at Forbes.com

Ms. Hymowitz no longer speaks about the negative stereotypes keeping women "in their place." In fact, she gave a back-handed compliment to a major theme in my book, "myth-busting," when she wrote her October 16, 2009 article titled: "Bucking Stereotypes: Mythbusters are women who dare to do what they want – and ignore those who say they can’t."

Read it at: Forbes.com.

You GO-O-O-O-O, girl!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

On Promoting Women

Shaun Rein writes a leadership column for Forbes. His December 11, 2009 article was titled, Why Men Don't Promote Women -- something which will surely enrage some people. His points were well taken:

  • too often women fail to ask and negotiate for the promotions they like
  • and
  • some women use (or abuse?) their sexuality in a professional setting which only undermines their promotability.

    His company is China Market Research -- a consultancy specializing in market intelligence: "our team of analysts conducts customized, objective, and discreet research."

    An interesting additional research question for his firm might be whether or not women also fail to promote women?

    His article prompted me to think about how often we hear women admire men who let the "softer, feminine side" of their personalities emerge. Yet those same women will resist showing self-confidence or -assuredness, arguing that such behavior might "make them look and sound like a man!"
  • Friday, December 11, 2009

    Magic Occurs

    When I submitted an article on the subject of "The Invisible Woman" to a major business journal, I was informed that "that’s so-o-o 2009!" Apparently, there are no more problems with women expressing themselves effectively in group settings. Brava!

    Then, at a recent panel dedicated to educating today’s women how to prepare themselves for public company board of director roles, I heard the following statement:

    "You know of course that 'three women make a critical mass on a corporate board' and that women have told me that they will not be the first woman on a corporate board because 'research says' that the first women will not be listened to, heeded or have an effect."

    That sounds like some women still believe "the invisible woman problem" continues to exist. It also demonstrates the powerful negative impact that selected editorial-oriented research can have on the minds of young women who, otherwise, might invest in their education and preparation for top corporate and governance roles.

    I’ve resisted critiquing some of the women-on-boards-advocacy research for a long time in deference to the efforts. But, I believe the time has come to speak up about the travesty of some negative research and its increasing efforts to try to "market" women into the boardroom.

    How is it possible that all women could possibly avoid being a "first" woman on a corporate board? Doesn’t someone have to be "first"? Are we educating young women to wait until there are "girl gangs" of three or more are already ensconced on a corporate board so they can enter, what, safely? Do we see the negative impact of this research, yet? Do we understand, yet, how much young women need to learn about overcoming their "invisible syndrome?"

    Could we please look at the research that’s being cited, rather than merely echo the "old wives’ tales" which that study is fostering?

    V.W. Kramer, A. Konrad and S. Erkut, "Critical Mass on Corporate Boards: Why Three or More Women Enhance Governance," Wellesley Centers for Women, Report No. WCW 11 (2006). You’ll have to read the Executive Summary unless you wish to subsidize the "center for women" with a $100 fee.

    The executive summary states that the "in-depth research" was based on anonymous interviews and discussions with "50 women directors, 12 CEOs, and 7 corporate secretaries from Fortune 1000 companies." The executive summary does not indicate how many of the CEOs or corporate secretaries were women or men; nor how many of the 50 women directors served at major corporations (F500) or smaller corporations (F501-1000). The hearsay evidence thus gathered concluded as follows:

    1 woman on board -- "report experiences of lone women not being listened to, being excluded from socializing and even from some decision-making discussions, being made to feel their views represent a 'woman’s point of view,' and being subject to inappropriate behaviors that indicate male directors notice their gender more than their individual contributions."

    2 women on board – "tend to feel more comfortable than one does alone. Each woman can assure that the other is heard, not always by agreeing with her, but rather, by picking up on the topics she raises and encouraging the group to process them fully. Two women together can develop strategies for raising difficult and controversial issues in a way that makes other board members pay attention. But with two women, women and men are still aware of gender in ways that can keep the women from working together as effectively as they might, and the men from benefiting from their contributions."

    3 women on board – "magic seems to occur" "Women start being treated as individuals with different personalities, styles, and interests. Women’s tendencies to be more collaborative but also to be more active in asking questions and raising different issues start to become the boardroom norm. We find that having three or more women on a board can create a critical mass where women are no longer seen as outsiders and are able to influence the content and process of board discussions more substantially."

    This research disparages the very significant majority of women directors who serve alone or with one other woman director at the corporate board level. The evidence indicated that 74% of the Fortune 500 companies had 1 or 2 women directors –- implying that a significant majority of women directors must have been subjected to the abuse identified in the study.

    "The most recent Catalyst report (2005 Catalyst Census of Women Board Directors of the Fortune 500) indicated that women held only 14.7 percent of all Fortune 500 board seats. Among the Fortune 500 companies, 53 still had no women on their boards, 182 had one woman, 189 had two, and only 76 [companies] had three or more women directors." (Emphasis added.)

    Only 15% of the companies had "magic" occurring among their women corporate directors. Of course, we probably should exclude HP, which also had 3 women directors at the time (as they do now -– wonder why magic occurs with this 3-some, not that 3-some?)

    It would be extraordinarily difficult for me to imagine any of the women at top Fortune 500 firms tolerating the "experiences" cited by the Wellesley report. It is unimaginably difficult for me to believe that corporate boards, specifically their nominating and governance committee, would take the trouble and effort to find competent women to serve, to complement their strategically-needed functional expertise, and then abuse and mistreat them so cavalierly. In the interviews that I’ve conducted with women directors (on the record, by the way), I have been impressed by how proud the boards are to have found the talent as they did among women director candidates. And the pride was reciprocated.

    It would be unthinkable for me to imagine these same women saying anything so negative about their board peers. Women directors are able, ready and willing to serve; honored to have the opportunity to learn about a company from the top most rung inside the corporation.

    It’s beyond belief that women directors -- who are chartered with an expectation of a duty of care, a duty of loyalty, and the challenge to think independently -- possibly might conspire to behave in the very same way that they allegedly despise among men: "to develop strategies for raising difficult and controversial issues."

    Would most individual women prefer to find other, comparably talented and capable women candidates whom they might recommend to their board? Oh, you bet! Why? Because women directors know the substantive business value they bring forth from their careers and experience. They know the independence of their perspective. They also know there are other similarly talented women out there who could bring new business value to the corporation and enable it to succeed strategically.

    Would any woman director ever consider bringing onto the board a women who is too cowardly to serve, on her own, in a demanding business decision-making setting? No way! Would any woman director ever consider bringing on board a second-class director just to get the board up to 3 women directors? What do you think?

    Would a "lone" woman director hesitate to speak up if she observed questionable risk management practices or if her experience provided insight on management development or executive compensation strategies? If there were such a "lone" woman director who perchance DID hesitate to speak her mind, how could she justify to herself or her shareholders a decision to remain on the board?

    And I defy anyone to explain to me what IS "a woman's point of view"? Which woman?

    The implications of the Wellesley research are serious -– if it were a valid research study. If it were valid, we probably would know much more about the women whose opinions were cited. Are they all Wellesley graduates? Do they have business degrees or other advanced degrees? Is this a phenomenon associated with women lacking practical business experience? What is their average age? Is this a current or an ancient phenomenon? On how many boards do they currently, and have they previously, served? Is this a dilemma of overbooked or inexperienced women directors?

    Most of all, in the interest of full disclosure and transparency, it would be appropriate to know the names and corporations of the women who cited this experience because I would like to divest my portfolio of shares in the companies on whose boards they serve.

    Perhaps now you might be interested in reading my unpublished article about The Invisible Women Problem. Click here.

    Thursday, December 10, 2009

    Gender Equity Funds

    Recently, I've received a barrage of emails announcing "the new!" women's equity investment fund supported by Naissance Capital (Zurich, SW), except that it's not news. The facts please:

    The Women’s Leadership Fund, founded in October 2009, will invest in companies with larger shares of women in senior roles. The fund is managed by Zurich-based Naissance Capital with backing from Cherie Blair (English barrister and wife of the former prime minister of the UK, Tony Blair), Kim Cambell (former prime minister of Canada), Jenny Shipley (former prime minister of New Zealand), and Wendy Luhabe (Chair of South Africa’s Industrial Development Corporation). Daniel Tudor will manage the fund for Naissance. See the factsheet.

    And the Guardian article by David Teather, "Fund Manager Launches Scheme to Invest in Firms with Women on Top," (October 26, 2009)

    This is not the first women's investment fund. Pax World, the Citizens' Index, and Amazone Euro Fund all have tried this before with mixed success.

    Pax World Gender Equity Fund

    Pax World (Portsmouth, NH) has been a leader in promoting gender as an investment concept —- the idea that companies that empower women perform better financially over the long run. It owns the Pax World Women's Equity Fund, which it bought in October 2007. The individual fund (PXWEX) was begun October 1, 1993 while the institutional fund (PXWIX) began April 1, 2006.

    The charts below compare the PXWEX and PXWIX share performance over the past three years relative to the S&P 500 (charted in red). Both funds have consistently underperformed the S&P 500. The individual fund (PXWEX) was almost 50% below, and currently stands at almost 30% below, November 2007 share levels. The institutional fund was almost 60% below, and currently remains almost 40% below, November 2007 levels.

    The Women’s Equity Mutual Fund

    The Women’s Equity Fund (FEMMX and FEMIX), located in San Francisco, was started in 1992 by Linda Pei and Leslie Christian; commenced operations October 1, 1993.

    For more on the life of Linda C.Y. Pei, see:
    her bio and a Pax World memorial essay.

    Walden Asset Management was the subadvisor for the fund, with Walden's Heidi Soumerai and Bill Apfel serving as co-portfolio managers. The funds were sold to Pax World in October 2007.

    "Women's Equity Mutual Fund Supports Businesswomen Through Screening and Now Microfinance," by William Baue in Sustainability Investment News (June 17, 2005).

    International Finance Corp. (World Bank) Gender Investment Indices

    Pax World also worked with KLD Research & Analytics, Inc. (Boston, MA) to construct five indices that are part of a gender investment series being developed for International Finance Corp., a member of The World Bank. See: press release

    The first phase of the IFC project included choosing the companies that would be included in the five indexes, all of which were to be launched by the end of April, 2009:

    1. Global Women Investment Index (GWI), consisting of 3 subindices:
    2. The North America index, (216 companies)
    3. Asia Pacific Women Investment Index (APWI)
    4. Europe Women Investment Index (EWI)
    5. Global 100 Women Investment Index (GWI100), representing the 100 top companies for women worldwide.

    The second phase of the project would be for IFC to fund the calculation of the indexes, which could then be licensed to a company as the basis of an index fund, she added.

    However, KLD was acquired by RiskMetrics Group (New York, NY) effective November 3, 2009. It will be interesting to see if RM will continue to provide environmental, social and governance (ESG) research and indices for institutional investors and whether it will maintain a "gender investment" series.

    According to PAX World sources, "You are correct that Pax and KLD developed the Global Women Investment Index series under contract to IFC earlier this year. That contract is now finished, and it is my understanding that IFC is not in a position to commercialize any of the indices .... Pax is not in a position to license these indices either, and KLD would probably need at least one licensee before they commit to maintaining and calculating these indices on an ongoing basis. So the indices, which were never really operational, remain in that state."

    According to a spokesperson for the IFC, "The indices created by KLD were just a prototype to see what an actual index would look like and whether it would be feasible to create one. IFC is currently working with partners to see how best to fund the calculation of index, and monitor its actual performance for the next couple of years."

    Amazone Euro Fund of AMM Finance SA

    Amazone Euro Fund was founded in 2006 to exploit the basic premise that firms with a high mix of male and female managers tend to outperform over time. AMM Finance SA is a boutique money management firm based in Geneva launched in 2000 with a focus on private wealth management.

    Amazone Euro Fund began with just €3m ($4.5m) to invest in companies that have at least two women on the board. Tests during 2000-05 showed it performed "fantastically well", said Nicolas de Malézieux, a fund manager. In 2007 the Fund performed in line with world markets; but, in 2008, it underperformed at the peak of the crisis. It is ahead of the markets in 2009.

    Mr de Malézieux says: "It is not easy to prove that women improve performance. If you look at last year, then it’s no. If you look at this year, it’s yes."

    "Jury’s out over taking women on board" by Richard Milne, FT.com, October 25, 2009

    "Gender mix at top gives an edge" by John Bonaccolta, FT.com, October 22, 2007

    The Citizens Index

    Citizens Funds (founded by Sophia Collier) was a leader in serving the socially responsible needs of retail investors and institutional investors since 1982.

    The Citizens Index consisted of what Citizens Advisors believed to be the best large-cap companies across a broad range of industries in terms of business fundamentals and corporate citizenship.

    "Adding to the literature that links gender diversity with positive financial performance is a recent report published by Citizens Advisers, Inc. of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. That report focuses on the 298 companies in the Citizens Index, each of which meets Citizens’ investment criteria by having at least one woman or minority on its board of directors or in the upper two levels of its management and satisfies Citizens’ standards for 'industry representation, financial soundness and corporate responsibility.' Citizens’ researchers found that the total and average annual return on the stock of those companies with the highest gender diversity on the board and in the upper two levels of management was several percentage points higher than that of the companies with the lowest gender diversity. In addition, the stock of the companies with more women had less volatility or risk than those with fewer women."

    The primary advocate for the Citizen's Index was Dr. Vesela Veleva, author of "Gender Diversity and Financial Performance," (2005). Formerly, Dr. Veleva was a Social Research Analyst at Citizens Advisers, the management company for Citizens Socially Responsible Mutual Funds. Today she is Research Manager at The Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College.

    On April 4th, 2008, Citizens Funds merged with Sentinel Funds, owned by Sentinel Investments, the investment management arm of Vermont-based National Life Group. The index is not longer maintained.

    Wednesday, December 9, 2009

    GMI Women on Boards Study

    Governance Metrics International began including women directors among their governance ratings services in March 2009. According to their study of Women on Boards: A Statistical Review, "each GMI Rating Report -– specifically the Board of Directors Summary -- includes statistics to compare the percent of women on the board in question to the average for companies in the same sector and to companies in the same home market or region."

    The report itemized the percentage share of women directors on boards at 4,203 companies in 19 industry sectors. The overall average share is 8.9% (or about 3,740 women directors), from a high of 13.5% for the 256 companies in the Retail sector, down to a 4.9% for the 76 companies in the Automobiles & Parts sector.

    What was interesting was to see how women directors spread themselves across the full range of sectors, as shown in the chart below. The sectors on the left show a "concentration" of women directors (above the average) whereas sectors on the right show "deficits" of women directors (compared to the average). All this indicates is that women tend to have strong functional expertise and experience in about half of the full array of industry sectors tracked by GMI.

    The chart simply suggests that if there were more women working in the "non-traditional" industry sectors, that clearly would help raise the overall share of women directors at top corporate boards.

    Thursday, December 3, 2009

    Big Time -- Women on Boards

    James Kristie, editor of Directors & Boards Magazine, wrote in his blog, Boards at their Best (see: December 3, 2009) that women represented 43% of the "new directors" added to corporate boards for the 3rd quarter 2009, following a positive trend throughout the year: 38% for 1st Q, 32% for 2nd Q. This truly is a "big time" improvement reflecting growth in the number of new women director announcements tracked by his magazine's Director Registry.

    Mr. Kristie's report contrasts with other census reports which focus on the snapshot share of "sitting directors," a static look at women (and other diversity candidates) who have been seated along with other directors for a number of years (which varies dramatically with company and their governance practices). Mr. Kristie's data is a lot like the reports that we have been tracking with Alice Krause of NewsOnWomen.com.

    There are many ways to count. Reports by executive search firms covering the top S&P 200 and Fortune 100 firms tend to record higher shares of seated women directors than other censuses. The top corporations tend to have larger boards and are more likely to include a wider spectrum of independently-minded directors. Why? Maybe because those companies have more global business activities, or more products or services. They also have a wider array of employees contributing to their diverse mix. All good reasons to tap a wider pool of directors to guide their strategic growth.

    Other censuses of women directors take snapshots of companies located in a city, a multi-state region, a whole state or nation. The number of companies surveyed can be just a handful of firms all the way up to the top 100 or 400 firms in that geographic area. The top companies will be included among these, but their share will vary.

    Mr. Kristie and Ms. Krause's surveys focus on net new additions each quarter or each month. Thus, their reports cover the current candidates whom boards are selecting. That's why their news is "good news", big time!

    Friday, November 27, 2009

    The Business Case

    We’ve heard a number of women in leadership advocacy groups quote or produce research studies that purport to "make the business case" for increasing the number of women on boards of directors. What exactly does it mean "to make the business case" for something?

    In my book, Outstanding in their Field: How Women Corporate Directors Succeed (Praeger/ABC-Clio: June 2009), we saw Debi Colman at Tektronix "make the business case" to spin off two parts of the company’s operations and create a new profitable venture (Merix) which she then agreed to lead as a multi-million dollar business enterprise.

    Janet Clarke "made the business case" to R.R. Donnelley & Sons for the company to establish a new production entity to print and duplicate both training manuals and discs for IBM and Microsoft. She was a principal sales rep responsible for bringing the business idea into the company and taking the final products to market. It was the biggest business quarter ever for Donnelley to that point.

    Other examples abound in the book and in the real world: how talented women spotted a viable business opportunity, framed the evidence supporting profitable expected returns, delivered "a compelling business case" complete with their assessment of strengths, risks, competitive challenges, market share forecasts, management, operations, and distribution pre-requisites.

    Leslie Frécon builds business cases before she invests in enterprises or recommends that her partners do likewise. Judith Estrin built business cases before taking multiple ventures public. Dr. Alice Bourke Hayes built a business case before she undertook her expansion plans for the University of San Diego. Kathleen Cote built several persuasive business cases at major junctures when her corporations expanded, downsized, or prepared for a merger/acquisition. Gayle Edlund Wilson built the business case for COSMOS, the California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science, emulating the business case that had been built successfully for the arts program. Dr. Andrea Rich built the business case for the expansion and cutbacks at UCLA and to bring the Los Angeles County Museum of Art back to financial solvency.

    All of these exemplary women "built the business case" that they, themselves, were willing to get behind and push forward to reality through their own labors in collaboration with other talented men and women. The difference between these substantial examples and those others, the so-called "business case" advocates, is "skin in the game." The advocates include a host of journalists, academic researchers and zealots who have the luxury of going onto some other avocation after they’ve written their diatribes. They are in the business of telling others what "you oughtta do," while it is the outstanding women who are the business people actually making the business case become a business reality -- what they are willing to do.

    To build a business case in favor of some action means you are willing to take an idea from inception and insight through the lonely, difficult and tumultuous process of analyzing benefits and costs, requirements and prerequisites, timeliness and risk vs. reward probabilities for different categories of participants: investors, management, employees.

    Standing on the sidelines, trying to intimidate others to "make change happen, NOW" is nagging and whining. It is most certainly NOT building an effective business case.

    For what purpose do we build a business case? It is a strategic road map to guide action that the initiator, herself, believes in enough to undertake herself. That means that if you want to build a business case, you also want to be a part of the construction crew -- someone willing to get her hands dirty and blistered in the undertaking because you believe there is a real payoff somewhere out there in the future.

    If you’re only writing about the subject, you’re a journalist who will get paid for your inches. If you think the end result of your advocacy is "getting the message out," then you’re simply a proselytizer. To build a business is not the same as forming a church or founding a charity.

    For what purpose do we write a business case? That entails the conduct of extensive research, interviews, and in-depth analysis of one specific business challenge in order to frame questions that collectively become input into the educational experience where we debate and discuss the merits and problems of alternative business actions. To write a business case study is to lay out the facts in an objective framework so that the topic can generate a fruitful dialog and a productive learning experience.

    Most of the research today on the subject of women on boards has yet to rise to the standard of either of these more rigorous challenges.

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    Passion? Or Skill?

    A young friend was job-hunting (again!) when she happened to find herself, at a family gather, in conversation with an older woman who’d risen to a relatively top level of leadership in her profession. The professional woman listened to the younger one talk about the challenges she was facing trying to find a "good job."

    "What is your special skill?" the experienced woman asked the job-hunter, trying to think of possible employer prospects among her mental roll-a-dex of acquaintances. In reply, the young woman proceeded to talk about her many "passions." She loved children; being around people; cooking; and she volunteered at her local church.

    You almost wanted to saint her right there. The woman prodded her to go on, trying to see if there were any skills that an employer might have written in any realistic job description. "What jobs have you had so far?" the woman asked, trying to extract some more specific experiences.

    Young job-hunter had waitressed, bar-tended, delivered wine, worked at a day care center, was a candy-striper, and a telemarketer. "What did you major in at college?" the woman persisted.

    Her academics were general studies -– which is exactly the knowledge she possessed. Her "special skills" seemed to be her drop dead good looks and her beaming smile. She also was a single parent of a pre-school-age child which meant she also required tremendous "flexibility" and "control" over her personal time.

    The experience woman listened as the young girl added layer upon layer to her pre-conditions to productive employment, or rather barrier upon barrier to genuine competitive earning potentials. That puzzled look on the professional woman’s face said, "How do you 'mentor' someone who doesn’t want to be counseled, but who merely wants you -– or The World -– to save her from the obvious current and future consequences of her real world, questionable choices?"

    Jean Paul Satre said, "You are free; choose."

    But the more important existential statement is, "Once you’ve made your bed, you are the one who must sleep there."

    The experienced woman had hear that admonition many times as she was growing up in the age of post-war modernism, along with many other "warnings" which that young job-hunter undoubtedly never heard:

    "Why would anyone buy the cow if they can get the milk for free?"
    "You need a skill you can 'fall back on' in case things don’t work out as you planned."

    How ironic that the "skills" that experienced woman’s generation advised her to get included: become a teacher, or a secretary, or a nurse –- all professions where secure jobs no longer exist in the contemporary technology-driven marketplace. Women once followed those jobs in droves, creating pink-collar employment concentrations where many of experienced woman’s peers locked themselves into low-income careers.

    The professional woman had worked pretty much ever since she was old enough to get an employment permit (at 14 years of age). That translated into a 50 year track record of skills development in an era when women were not expected to venture out of the home. If young job-hunting friend is 30 years old, today, that means she has approximately the same number of years ahead of her during which she can be productive, desperate or dependent.

    By the time professional woman was 30 years, she too had worked as a volunteer, teacher, day care worker, waitress, motel night clerk, maid and char-woman. She’d also painted, re-tiled and renovated apartment units. And she worked as a telephone operator, transcriptionist, data-entry clerk, secretary, researcher and journalist. By the beginning of her 3rd decade, experienced woman was finishing a business school degree because she finally figured out that being skilled in something "real" like economics, finance, accounting, or management afforded a better platform from which to stand tall and accomplish something of substance in the years remaining.

    Somewhere along the way, professional woman also read a very scary story, titled Looking for Mr. Goodbar -– the tale of a young girl who went bar-hopping to find fun, good times and Good Time Charlie with whom she could laugh and whatever. She found him. But it didn’t turn out as she expected.

    Being a little scared can be a good thing if it diverts you toward a path of greater self-sufficiency and self-reliance. Having those little hairs on the back of your neck rise up and tingle in the face of genuine risk and uncertainty is a life-saving gift. But, the more important lesson is what you do, how you act, what you choose, once the alarm bells go off.

    Suzie Orman, in the October 24. 2009 event documented in A Woman’s Nation, said "Until women accept the need to make themselves a priority, they will continue to struggle to find their way in the new world order." (p. 232)

    So, here we see young job-seeker talking with experienced woman, the former hoping that the latter will "mentor" her to a vision of success. Experienced woman knows that the most important choice is how you strive to be worthy of being mentored, how you build the skills and competencies on which you can rely over that long term future which is your own life and career. How does she tell her young friend that "Passion, alone, is simply not enough?"

    Thursday, November 19, 2009

    Lessons from Britain

    The 2009 Female FTSE 100 research by Cranfield School of Management
    (See report: here.)

    Some of the few positive quotes from the report:

    "There are now 2,281 women (up from 1,877 last year) on the corporate boards and executive committees/senior teams of all the FTSE listings, hence there is a huge and growing pipeline of female talent available to the FTSE 100 boards."

    "The percentage of new female appointments to FTSE 100 boards has risen from last year’s 10.7% to 14.7% this year."

    "Second we have added a supplement to our report of 100 “Women to Watch”, giving sketches of senior women we feel should be seriously considered for boardroom appointments."

    Additional facts: the share of women on boards increased to 12.%, even though the total number of board seats at the FTSE 100 declined by 46 directors in the past year alone.

    And, over the past 10 years, the number of women directors at FTSE 100 firms increased by 52, while the total number of director seats declined by (71) and the number of male-occupied seats declined by (123).

    My Proxy

    Charles Schwab recently asked me for my advice on trustees for his Schwab Funds. I told him I liked what I saw, but only because I’d done my homework on the trustees presented in the prospectus for those funds.

    There are nine trustees of Schwab Funds, one of whom is a woman with very impressive financial credentials. At the end of the shareholder proxy statement are 15 pages listing all of the individual funds these nine trustees administer. I noticed that most of the trustees were responsible for 66 "portfolios in the fund complex," while the one woman was responsible for 79. The proxy listed the principal occupation of the trustees during the past 5 years and other directorships they hold. Fortunately, for me, I’d researched the one woman director and knew a great deal more about her highly accomplished career in corporate and academic finance.

    I also reviewed the "corporate governance information" included in the proxy voting packet. Schwab Fund has four board committees: an Audit and Compliance Committee; an Investment Oversight Committee; a Marketing, Distribution, and Shareholder Servicing Committee; and a Governance Committee. The woman trustee sits on the Audit and Compliance as well as the Governance Committee. I was interested in the charter for the committee responsible for all things "governance."

    Governance includes oversight and recommendations regarding the Board’s:

      Compensation practices
      Retirement policies
      Term limits
      Insurance programs
      Annual self-evaluation
      Effectiveness and allocation of assignments and functions of the Board.
      Composition of committees
      Oversight and selection of the Trusts’ legal counsel and independent legal counsel to the Independent Trustees
      Review of legal counsel reports regarding potential conflicts of interest
      Training of trustees
      Nomination and selection of trustee candidates

    The proxy details how the Governance Committee evaluates and selects new trustee candidates.

    Minimum qualifications:

      1. An ability to work together with other trustees with full and open discussion and debate as an effective group.

      2. Current knowledge and experience in the Trusts’ business or operations; or contacts in the community in which the Trusts’ does business and in the industries relevant to the Trusts’ business; or substantial business, financial or industry-related experience.

      3. A willingness and ability to devote adequate time to the Trusts’ business.

    Additional qualities and skills considered:

      1. Relationships that may affect the independence of the trustee or conflicts of interest that may affect the trustees’ ability to discharge his or her duties.

      2. Diversity of experience and background, including the need for financial, business, academic, public or other expertise on the Board or Board committees.

      3. The fit of the individual’s skills and experience with those of the other trustees and potential trustees in comparison to the needs of the Trusts.

    I noticed that there was no specific gender mandate -- for the selection of "a skirt." Diversity of experience and background was the only specific mention in this arena.

    The proxy notes that should shareholders submit a candidate for consideration, the Governance Committee would evaluate that candidate using the same criteria as described above.

    The charter of the Governance Committee states that decisions by the committee are only non-binding recommendations to the Board. The Committee and members are held to "the same standard of care" as generally applied to the Board.

    When I read censuses about women on boards, I wonder if the "advocating" researchers truly have considered how hard directors and trustees work, how high they have set the bar regarding governance standards for themselves in the performance of their duties, and how many women really have prepared themselves to serve, as this woman has, at the helm of a such a substantial financial ship.

    Thursday, November 5, 2009

    The Truth Behind Sarah Raiss’ Rise to the Boardroom

    Did Sarah E. Raiss "network" and "get mentored" into the boardroom, or was it something else? We should encourage truly, talented and competent women to not understate or "soft-sell" the very impressive skills they developed during their careers. We need them to shine the light on the accomplishments that earned the attention of the business community, the cross-discipline core competency relationships they built during their rise up many paths to leadership, and acknowledge both the entities they built and the times they simply reached for the gold. That is what a Board Diversity Council should do to create opportunities for great women to shine. By the time Ms. Raiss attended the Women on Board™ Mentoring Program (2007) and was mentored by Robert J. Harding, Chair of Brookfield Asset Management Inc. her strong business and industry credentials were obvious to all but the most obtuse.

    Sarah Raiss is Executive Vice-President, Corporate Services for TransCanada -- a Canadian company recognized as the leader in the responsible development and reliable operation of North American energy infrastructure including natural gas pipelines, power generation, gas storage facilities, and projects related to oil pipelines. Her breadth of responsibilities at that firm include: human resources, information systems, aviation, corporate services and internal communications. Not exactly your "traditional" industry sector for a woman and not exactly a simple job.

    Ms. Raiss currently sits on the Board of Directors for the Business Development Bank of Canada, where she chairs the Human Resources Committee, and on the Shopper’s Drug Mart Board of Directors.

    David Williams, Chair of the Shoppers Drug Mart Board, welcomed her to his board in August 2007 saying, "We are very pleased to welcome Sarah to our Board. Her extensive experience and public company background make her an ideal candidate to serve on our Board and Compensation Committee. We look forward to her many contributions as we continue to grow our business."

    Ms. Raiss was born and raised in Flint, MI. She received her B.S. in Applied Math (with distinction) form the University of Michigan in 1979 followed by an MBA (with an emphasis on Marketing and Operation Behaviour) in 1987. She holds an ICD.D. (certification granted by the Institute of Corporate Directors, the professional body representing the Director community in Canada. The professional designation is recognized both nationally and internationally.)

    She began her career at Michigan Bell Telephone Company as a Trainee and later Engineer in the Transmission Design Department (1979-1982), then became an Engineer in Facilities Planning (1982-1983), served on special assignment to the Divestiture Planning Group (1983-1984), and then was named Manager of Long Range Technical Planning (1984-1986). She became Product Manager for Transport and Information Services (1986-1987).

    She joined Richard Meltzer and Associates as a Senior Consultant (1988-1989) then became Director of Corporate Strategy at Ameritech in charge of its Ameritech Publishing Inc. (1989-1993). At Ameritech, she held the positions of:

  • Team Leader, Marketing Team & Launch Team, Special Assignment, Transformation of Ameritech (1992-1993)
  • Vice President, Customer Services & Support, Long Distance Industry Services Unit, Ameritech (1993-1994)

    She was one of 120 top leaders appointed by the Chairman of Ameritech to move the company from a network-based regulated entity to a market-facing competitive enterprise.

    Ms. Raiss left Ameritech in 1994 and formed her own firm, SE Reiss Group Inc., a consultancy specializing in strategy, culture change and merger integration (1994 to 1999). She was invited to join TransCanada PipeLines Limited as Executive Vice President of Human Resources & Public Relations in 1999.

    Along the way, Ms. Raiss gathered together an impressive collection of academic, business, and nonprofit boards, earned recognitions among her peers, spoke and wrote on topical subjects in her area of competence. THESE are all of the reasons Ms. Raiss was invited to become a corporate director. If Ms. Raiss had only a fraction of the credentials, she still would be an asset in the boardroom -- not simply by "networking" and "mentoring."

    Academic boards:
    University of Michigan Business School – director, 1995 to date
    University of Michigan, Women’s Initiative Advisory Committee – director, 2000 to date
    University of Michigan Alumni Club

    Business/nonprofit boards:
    Conference Board of Canada, Executive Women’s Advisory Committee – director, 2000 to date
    Strategic Leadership Forum of Calgary
    Art Institute of Chicago – director, 1998-1999
    United Way of Calgary – volunteer
    United Way of Calgary Cabinet – director, 2000 to date
    Deboarahs’ Place, Human Resident Committee of the Board – 1997-1998
    National Association of Female Executives
    Petroleum Club
    Earl Grey Golf Club

    "Telecommunications Engineering & Operations"
    "Annual Review of Communications, 1998"

    Outstanding Young Women of America, 1985
    Distinguished Leadership Award, 1985
    Leadership America, 1994
    Young Mover’s and Shakers, Chicago – 1998
    Top 100 list of Canada’s Most Powerful Women - 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006
    Inducted into the Top 100 Hall of Fame - 2006

    Public speaker:
    National Communications Forum
    Conference Board of Canada
    University of Alberta, MBA
    Alberta Human Resource Association, facilitator

    Sources: TransCanada, Canada's Who's Who and the Top 100 Hall of Fame biographies.
  • Saturday, October 31, 2009

    The Boston Club

    The Boston Club, Massachusetts’ covey of women executives and directors, issued on October 30, 2009 their latest report on the state of women in leadership in The Bay State. If that didn’t scare the next generation of women back into the kitchen, nothing will.

    As is typical of these reports, the 2009 study cites "a troubling trend" about "women losing ground" in their quest for a match made in heaven -– a corporate board or executive role at a Top 100 Firm in Massachusetts. The members-only nonprofit continues the 13-state harangue against companies whom they argue are the sole source of the angst in corporate America. According to The Boston Club, it is the fault of all those "pale, stale, ancient males" who continue their "zero-zero" strategy of excluding the most promising women from the executive suites and from the boardroom. They echo their sister organizations’ lament about the tragedy of the "static" and "flat" trends.

    First, we should remind the researchers in Bean-Town that we have been in a horrific recession since the 3rd quarter of 2007. Most economic data describing the last two years' activity typically reported declines of 30 to 50 percent all the way to triple digits downward. So, if women on board data reveals merely a flat trend, then that would suggest that women in leadership at that level did not lose out, comparatively speaking.

    But, the data holds many more treasures that the researchers have overlooked in their enthusiasm to strafe male-dominated corporations. Fact No. 1: since Boston began surveying the state’s Global 100 firms in 2001, 18 women were added to boards even though the number of male occupied seats declined by 12. Fact No. 2: The number of "zero" firms (those with no women directors) declined by 10. Fact No. 3: The number of firms with three women directors increased by 4 (from 5 firms to 9 firms). Fact No. 4: Four women are CEO/Chair of the companies where they serve as directors -– no small achievement. And, for those who wish to stay current, Fact No. 5: Massachusetts added 9 new women corporate directors to top corporations in the first 10 months of 2009, alone, according the press release announcements tracked by NewsOnWomen.com

    The dot-com bust of 2000-2001 and the subsequent years of financial stupidity wreaked havoc on Boston’s Top 100 firms, suggesting the local economy has not exactly been risk-free. Turnover of firms on the Boston 100 (due to mergers, acquisitions, relocations, and revenue declines) has been high. Almost half of the firms (a total of 49) left the Boston 100 since 2003 alone. This makes comparisons very difficult.

    From-To Firms Leaving
    2003-2004    11
    2004-2005    6
    2005-2006    6
    2006-2007    11
    2007-2008    11
    2008-2009    4

    By 2009, The Boston 100 list included 37 new companies which were not on the list in 2003. Almost half of these new, young businesses (17 firms) had 1, 2 or 3 women directors for a total of 23 women in leadership. (Nineteen firms had no women directors.)

    The biggest concern of these women-on-boards advocacy groups should not be at the board level, where women ARE holding their own. We should be much more concerned about the chilling, negative effect their reports have on the next generation of young, aspiring women "in the pipeline" who are trying to decide if they want to come up the executive ranks into leadership roles.

    If I were a young woman in business school today who was repeatedly hit with this depressing, discouraging commentary from my "senior sisters," I would not be encouraged to stay on course for a leadership positions as I did back when I was in B-School. And back then, you could feel and taste bias and prejudice against women’s advancement -– today, those would be grounds for a lawsuit.

    In 2001, when The Boston Club first began issuing their reports, they found 133 women executives among the total of 794 executives (or 17%) at the state’s top 100 firms. In 2009, they found 60 women executives out of a total of 679 (8.6%) or a decline of 73 women "in the pipeline" on track to leadership compared to a decline of 53 overall. This is the true "critical challenge" facing women.

    In 2001, the survey of CEOs at the Boston Top 100 firms spoke of 3 critical imperatives for board qualification:

    1. profit and loss experience
    2. functional expertise
    3. visibility to other CEOs.

    The Boston report suggests that women are leaving corporations in large numbers to start new entrepreneurial businesses. In December 2009, the Small Business Administration will release their findings from the nation-wide survey of women-owned businesses which will provide us tremendous insight into this arena.

    For example, are today’s young women retreating to viable businesses or are they swarming to uneconomic hobby/lifestyle choices (such as table-scaping, scrap-booking, restaurants, fashion, nail and hair salons)? Are they building real businesses to address substantive economically-sound challenges of the global 21st competitive marketplace?

    Are today’s young women preparing themselves for the challenge of executive leadership? Or are they just retreating to the perceived belief that nonprofits will give them greater personal satisfaction? Is their service mentality financially- and economically-sustainable for women, today, during at career which potentially will span more than 4 decades?

    Are women-owned businesses paying their fair share of society’s taxes, wages, pensions, and health insurance? Are they hiring their share of workers and executives, themselves? Or are women-owned businesses simply not-for-profit entities that provide personal satisfaction, but do not cover resource costs and only exist at the behest of charitable donations or public grants?

    Are women entrepreneurs growing their firms, attracting shareholder investments, building their own boards and including women directors on their on boards? Or are women simply hoping that men will do all the really hard work alone?

    In 2009, the Boston report shoots all of the "critical imperatives" at the companies and their failure at succession planning and "finding" women. Nothing is said about how or whether women in the pipeline are acquiring P&L experience, functional expertise that would be of value to boards, and/or whether women are making themselves visible in today’s more competitive and global marketplace.

    Nevertheless, if anyone were to evaluate the credentials of the women directors and executives in Boston, as listed in the appendices, they would have no question whatsoever that these talented women understand the challenges and have stepped up to meet them.

    It certainly would be nice to read more about these women of achievement and the paths they pursued to their leadership roles. Who knows how inspiring that might be to the next generation of young women who might follow them to the very top?

    Thursday, October 22, 2009

    Laurentian Bank Leads

    Laurentian Bank, in Montréal, leads Canadian banks (and probably U.S. banks as well) with 5 women among 13 directors.

    "Montréal, October 21, 2009 – Mr. L. Denis Desautels, Chairman of the Board of Laurentian Bank, is pleased to announce the appointment to the Bank’s Board of Directors of Ms. Marie-France Poulin, Vice-President of Camada Group, an enterprise specialized in investment and acquisition of mid-sized companies. With this nomination, five of Laurentian Bank’s 13 directorships are now held by women, constituting the strongest female representation in all of the Canadian banking industry."

    See their press release for a description of their experience and competence. Truly outstanding women in leadership.

    Friday, October 16, 2009

    The Shriver Report

    The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything is a 454-page report which opens with comments by Maria Shriver and closes with an epilog by Oprah Winfrey.

    The most insightful part of this document is the chapter by Suzie Orman, beginning at page 232: Money Matters. Ms. Orman’s most sage advice certainly upstages all the other wish lists and candy-cane dreaming of the other chapters:

    "Until women accept the need to make themselves a priority, they will continue to struggle to find their way in the new world order."

    Ms. Orman echoes the advice of Eunice Shriver, whom Maria Shriver quotes, but whom she apparently does not understand:

    "Use adversity to give your life purpose and mission," Eunice Shriver told her children. "Turn your adversity into advantage and opportunity."

    Instead, Ms. Shriver’s introduction is a litany of complaints that, in summary, says: "Momma’s not happy:"

    "I learned women are hungry for something that’s missing in their lives—a place to connect.

    • They say they feel increasingly isolated, invisible, stressed, and misunderstood.
    • They say the news media, where I’d worked for 30 years, don’t accurately reflect their lives anymore.
    • They say women on TV shows and in the movies certainly don’t either.
    • They can’t believe how out-of touch government is with who women are today and what they need to survive.
    • They can’t understand how slow business has been in figuring out how to retain, support, and promote women.
    • They lament that many faith institutions want women to be volunteers, but won’t give them a seat at the table, let alone a place at the altar.
    • They’re terrified how quickly their family finances could be wiped out by a child’s catastrophic illness or a parent’s Alzheimer’s.
    • And they’re exasperated that pundits and pollsters continue to jam women into convenient boxes with labels like 'soccer moms' or 'security moms.'"

    So, first of all, A Woman’s Nation is one bitchy nation.

    Part 1: The Economic Setting describes the "new world order" that exists now that women constitute almost half of the workplace. What the report does not address is all those other economic sectors where women have represented over half the headcount for years: the teaching profession, the healthcare profession, and the real estate profession. If those sectors represent what happened when women become the majority, that should speak volumes about what we can expect now that women represent half the workforce overall.

    "At one level, everything has changed. And yet so much more change is needed. This report contemplates what a new America should look like after we finally embrace this important new dynamic in our lives and the changes it has caused in our homes and businesses."

    Ah yes, once we "embrace" the new world order, everything will change. Whose fault is all this malaise? Part 2 places the blame squarely on all The Institutions: Government, Immigrants (??), Health, Education, Business, Faith (??), and Media -- all of those evil things that have to change to accommodate A Woman’s Nation. They’re all to blame, except of course Faith, which provides women with a safe harbor. Yeah, right, as if faith-based initiatives really helped women get the equal pay they deserved or protected them from being overused free labor. Faith institutions are charity-based, where women find comfort and solace in an otherwise ugly profit-oriented world. "Get thee to a nunnery!"

    Part 3 is Let the Conversation Begin: Men, A Man’s Viewpoint, A Woman’s Viewpoint, and (of course) Marriage. So after all the above research and data, it still comes down to what women want out of their marriage -– more help.

    "Business owners and political leaders have been getting a free ride on the backs of women, taking advantage of their unpaid and underpaid labor. We will have a women’s nation when: Our laws, public policies, and social institutions make it possible for women and men to move readily between these two realms (work and family)."

    Ok, do I understand it correctly? All we have to do is change all the laws, public policies, and social institutions so women and men can move freely between work and family, and THEN women can expect equal pay for equal work.

    Part 4 is The Latest From the American People (a survey of 3,413 adults.) including deep-dish questions such as, "Are you confused about the way men and women are supposed to interact these days."

    And Oprah Winfrey wraps it all up for us. Ms. Winfrey who is the one who presents woman after woman bemoaning their horrible lives on daytime television, advocating on behalf of diets, beauty treatments, shopping until we drop, and young girls’ beauty encampments --- way over there in Africa. SHE cites Sojourner Truth -– one woman among many who put herself where her values were: on the front line of leadership. Sojourner Truth truly was a woman of courage willing to make change happen by the work of her own hands, not simply whining that "others" do something first.

    Friday, October 9, 2009

    The Nonprofit Market

    CharityBrowser.com provides some statistics describing the size of the nonprofit marketplace. For the year 2006, they list a total of 1.4 million nonprofits in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. That compares with the U.S. Census (2004) estimates of 25.4 million firms of which 5.9 million were firms with employees and 19.5 million without employees. About 4.4 million were small firms with 10 or fewer employees.

    So, when board advocates are advising women to serve on nonprofit boards as a place to acquire top level governance experience, they are talking about a very small market. For every 1 nonprofit there are another 19 small businesses. For every 1 nonprofit, there are 4.5 small businesses with employees. For every 1 nonprofit, there are 3 firms with up to 10 employees.

    Board of director positions at Fortune 500 firms total about 5,500 seats (assuming 11 directors each) and, at the next tier of Fortune 501-1000 firms, there are about 3,000 seats (assuming 6 directors each). That is a total of 8,500 director positions at Fortune 1000 firms. The Census reports a total of 17,000 firms with 500 or more employees. Assuming an average board size of 8.5, that would represent approximately 136,000 possible director seats (over and above those on the Fortune 1000). Even assuming that not all large companies have boards or have boards that size, we’re still talking a huge number of board seats.

    CharityBrowser.com reports that just 7 states are home to 45% of all nonprofits. California leads with 134,000; followed by New York (88,000), Texas (83,000), North Carolina (71,000), Pennsylvania and Illinois (each with 59,000), Ohio (58,000) and Florida (56,000). Nevertheless, nonprofits in these most active states hold only $2 million in assets and $1.5 million in revenues on average.

    Thus, there is no support for the expectation that board oversight of finances at nonprofits would be comparable to the multimillion dollar asset and revenue profiles of top corporations. Only the very largest nonprofits would be responsible for revenues of over $100 million. However, there are fewer than 260 such nonprofits among the top 7 states. New York leads with 78, while California has 69. No other state has even 40 nonprofits at that scale.

    For those who thought it was hard to get onto a major corporate board, it looks like even that would be easier than getting on a top nonprofit with a comparable scale of financial responsibilities.

    Monday, October 5, 2009

    Myth-Busting in Chicago

    Many women’s organizations bemoan the lack of women directors and report same in Censuses such as The Chicago Network has conducted for the past ten years. We would interpret the data as a glass half full and filling up fast.

    The Chicago Network reported that, over the past ten years (1998-2008), Chicago’s top 50 public companies added 16 women directors, rising from 61 women in 1998 to 77 in 2008 (a 10.1% share rising to 15.0%). Not only did the number of women increase, but this happened in the same timeframe that the total size of corporate boards declined by 90 members, and the number of men on the boards also declined by 106 men. The average board size went from over 12 members to just over 10 members. To my mind, that is pretty good progress.

    A common belief is that nonprofit board experience translates into for-profit board preparedness. It’s not necessarily so.

    The Chicago Network surveyed nonprofits from 2005 through 2007, but stopped doing so in the 2008 census. In 2005, they surveyed 35 nonprofits, and 30 each in the latter two years.

    Average board size for nonprofits was about 3 times that of for-profit corporations in Chicago. Nonprofit boards averaged 44 members per board in 2005, 60 in 2006, and 56 in 2007. It may be somewhat easier to get onto a nonprofit board, but it also likely to be more difficult to excel while on a nonprofit board. Working among 50 or so other nonprofit "committee members" to get substantive, productive results is far more complex than the work on a corporate board of 10 people, which is the average size of Chicago’s corporate boards today.

    Interestingly enough, over the period 2005 to 2007, the number of women on nonprofit boards declined by 20 (maybe due to the change in the sample from 35 entities to 30). By contrast, the number of men serving on Chicago’s top nonprofit boards increased by 149 during the same period. Thus, women now hold an average of 20.6% of nonprofit board seats and 15.0% of for-profit board seats. The margin between the two is narrowing from both ends.

    The number of women serving as executives on nonprofit entities also declined from 90 in 2005, to 40 in 2006, and 42 in 2007. The total number of executives declined from 249 to 141, and the number of men executives also declined from 159 to 99.

    The real story is that women are taking on more top leadership positions in a variety of for-profit companies in Chicago and throughout Illinois at large, medium, and small firms. The increasing number of women executives, preparing themselves for leadership positions along many paths to success, means that we are beginning to reach into that 100% of the educated talent pool which includes women.

    What is so impressive, though, is to break out the list of the names of women directors and executives from The Chicago Network's report: one-hundred and thirty-eight women are in top leadership positions at the top 50 Chicago corporations. Again: that is 138 individual women!

    Wouldn't it be nice, for a change, instead of focusing on the "magic number" (the percentage share of seats occupied by women directors), if we would start to focus on the individual women who have achieved these incredible positions of leadership?

    See: The Chicago Network Annual Census (2008) : http://www.thechicagonetwork.org/

    Friday, September 25, 2009

    Why I Don’t Like Czars

    Kenneth Feinberg, attorney with the law firm, Feinberg Rozen LLC which specializes in mediation and arbitration (http://www.feinbergrozen.com/), was appointed "pay czar" by President Obama in June to decide compensation packages for the highest-paid personnel at the seven companies that received U.S. government bailouts.

    Mr. Feinberg apparently has "a team of 15 people" to review pay data submitted by major firms that needed extraordinary assistance, (including Citigroup Inc, Bank of America Corp, and American International Group Inc.). They reportedly are "using formulas and data analysis to determine executive compensation" rather than relying on pay caps.

    There is no question about Mr. Feinberg’s credentials as an attorney and mediator: he was special master of the September 11th victims' fund, administered funds for victims of the Virginia Tech shootings and Vietnam-era Agent Orange poisonings. But, is this situation really comparable to any of those? Why is Mr. Feinberg operating as his own un-legislated Resolution Trust Corporation?

    Who are the 15 wise men (and maybe women) who get special access to pay data that none of us taxpayers, customers or shareholders get to review during our assessments of the competence of those corporations, their board members or their compensation committee members?

    Why is Mr. Feinberg the only person on the planet, apparently, with the wisdom to come up with data analysis and formulae to assess the appropriateness of executive compensation?

    Why is his magic more powerful than the potions whipped up by the people at Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organizations (NRSRO)? Should Mr. Feinberg register himself and his team as an NRSRO?

    What on earth ever happened to the promises of transparency and disclosure about executive compensation from our friends at Financial Stability DOT Gov?

    Why is it that this compensation wizard gets to hit the speakers’ circuit and get paid to talk about his personal, isolated interpretation of compensation rights or wrongs at companies that required us poor citizens to dole out "extraordinary assistance."

    Mr. Feinberg currently is scheduled to appear at about 8 public (and private) speaking events over the next couple of months. Frankly, I don’t want him to get one red cent privately from corporations or associations before he appears before the Congressional Oversight Panel (cop.senate.gov) and explains to me the magic of his "formulae" compared to the mystery of the mathematical models that were used by those same people to get us into this mess in the beginning.

    Thursday, September 17, 2009

    Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission

    Among the many working groups, agencies and commissions charges with assessing blame for the latest financial imbroglio is: The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC). It is worth watching how this commission performs.

    Phil Angelides (former California state treasurer and the 2006 Democratic nominee for California governor) was named as Chairman of the Commission. Other members include:

  • Byron Georgiou, a lawyer with a major securities litigation firm and a business owner

  • Brooksley Born, a former financial regulator (CFTC) under President Bill Clinton who was an early and vocal proponent for derivatives regulation in the 1990s

  • Bob Graham, a Florida Democratic Senator

  • Heather Murren, a retired managing director at investment bank Merrill Lynch; and

  • John W. Thompson, chairman of Symantec Corp., a business-software provider.

  • Republicans:
  • Bill Thomas, a former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and a conservative, pro-business lawmaker

  • Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a conservative economic adviser to Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona during last year's presidential campaign

  • Keith Hennesey, former director of the Bush White House's National Economic Council (also see his invitation to provide input to the FCIC at: his blog) and

  • Peter Wallison, a director at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

  • See the July 16, 2009 NY Times article.

    The Commission held its first public meeting September 17, 2009 and named Thomas Greene as Executive Director. Greene was Chief Assistant Attorney General and head of the Public Rights Division of the California Attorney General’s Office.

    The enabling legislation was The Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009, or FERA, (Pub.Law 111-21, 123 Stat. 1617, S. 386) signed May 20, 2009 which takes a number of steps to enhance criminal enforcement of federal fraud laws, especially regarding financial institutions, mortgage fraud, and securities or commodities fraud.

    Section 5 of the Act creates a legislative commission, with each house of the Congress represented by three members appointed by the majority party and two members appointed by the minority, none of whom may be employees of the Federal government or any state or local government. The charter of the FCIC provides a shopping list of the possible sources of the recent financial disaster and bailout.

    The purpose of the Commission is

    (1) "to examine the causes, domestic and global, of the current financial and economic crisis in the United States. Specifically the role of ---" the following (22) possible causes:

    (A) fraud and abuse in the financial sector, including fraud and abuse towards consumers in the mortgage sector;
    (B) Federal and State financial regulators, including the extent to which they enforced, or failed to enforce statutory, regulatory, or supervisory requirements;
    (C) the global imbalance of savings, international capital flows, and fiscal imbalances of various governments;
    (D) monetary policy and the availability and terms of credit;
    (E) accounting practices, including, mark-to-market and fair value rules, and treatment of off-balance sheet vehicles;
    (F) tax treatment of financial products and investments;
    (G) capital requirements and regulations on leverage and liquidity, including the capital structures of regulated and non-regulated financial entities;
    (H) credit rating agencies in the financial system, including, reliance on credit ratings by financial institutions and Federal financial regulators, the use of credit ratings in financial regulation, and the use of credit ratings in the securitization markets;
    (I) lending practices and securitization, including the originate-to-distribute model for extending credit and transferring risk;
    (J) affiliations between insured depository institutions and securities, insurance, and other types of nonbanking companies;
    (K) the concept that certain institutions are ‘‘too-big-to- fail’’ and its impact on market expectations;
    (L) corporate governance, including the impact of company conversions from partnerships to corporations;
    (M) compensation structures;
    (N) changes in compensation for employees of financial companies, as compared to compensation for others with similar skill sets in the labor market;
    (O) the legal and regulatory structure of the United States housing market;
    (P) derivatives and unregulated financial products and practices, including credit default swaps;
    (Q) short-selling;
    (R) financial institution reliance on numerical models, including risk models and credit ratings;
    (S) the legal and regulatory structure governing financial institutions, including the extent to which the structure creates the opportunity for financial institutions to engage in regulatory arbitrage;
    (T) the legal and regulatory structure governing investor and mortgagor protection;
    (U) financial institutions and government-sponsored enterprises; and
    (V) the quality of due diligence undertaken by financial institutions;

    (2) to examine the causes of the collapse of each major financial institution that failed (including institutions that were acquired to prevent their failure) or was likely to have failed if not for the receipt of exceptional Government assistance from the Secretary of the Treasury during the period beginning in August 2007 through April 2009;

    (3) to submit a report under subsection [by December 15, 2010] (h);

    (4) to refer to the Attorney General of the United States and any appropriate State attorney general any person that the Commission finds may have violated the laws of the United States in relation to such crisis; and

    (5) to build upon the work of other entities, and avoid unnecessary duplication, by reviewing the record of the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs of the Senate, the Committee on Financial Services of the House of Representatives, other congressional committees, the Government Accountability Office, other legislative panels, and any other department, agency, bureau, board, commission, office, independent establishment, or instrumentality of the United States (to the fullest extent permitted by law) with respect to the current financial and economic crisis.

    A Very Wise Justice

    Do corporations have the same rights as human beings? How could that be if they are creations of state law and judges’ opinions, asked the newest member of the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Sotomayor? If corporations have a right of free speech, do they also have other inherent rights -- of vote, of assembly, of the right to bear arms? How far down that slippery slope do judges want to travel?

    If corporations have the same rights, do they have the same responsibilities and liabilities as human beings? If a corporate marketing arm creates a political movie, which perchance steps over the line to slander or defamation of character, do the corporate individuals have a liability as a human being would? If that liability includes a financial penalty, would the corporate individuals take the financial hit or would shareholders be held accountable for the offending behavior? Can a human being separate out its responsibility as a corporate entity can? Can a human being hold someone else liable for the adverse impact of his or her actions?

    Interesting questions from a very wise Justice. Finally.

    See the article: "Sotomayor Issues Challenge to a Century of Corporate Law" at WSJ September 17, 2009.

    Wednesday, September 16, 2009

    The MIND Research Institute

    The MIND Research Institute of Santa Ana, CA has developed software educational products, based on neuroscience research, to teach math based on spatial-temporal reasoning -– "thinking in pictures" as co-founder and chief technology officer, Dr. Matthew Peterson would say. For those of us who have been learning how to use web-based technology through the Teach Yourself –- Visually series of books over the past 10 years know exactly why this program is succeeding. It’s natural!

    Dr. Peterson co-developed the teaching products with Dr. Gordon Shaw, who founded the Institute in 1998, and whose 30 years of scientific research at the University of California, Irvine, CA provided the foundation for their revolutionary Math+Music curricula. Dr. Shaw’s vision was to teach "all kids, regardless of cultural and socio-economic background, how to think, reason and create mathematically." Dr. Shaw passed away in April 2005.

    According to a recent LA Times article, the Orange County Department of Education and members of the private sector raised $1.1 million to use the product at 64 elementary and middle schools with 15,000 students. That comes to about $73 per student. The results were a 12% increase in math proficiency compared to an average of only 4.5% improvement statewide.

    "Innovative math program boosts scores at O.C. schools" by Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times, September 15, 2009

    LA Times.com.

    MIND Institute press release.

    Friday, September 11, 2009

    Forum for Corporate Directors Orange County

    The following women corporate directors have been added to the FCD-OC Hall of Fame over the past thirteen years. Do you know who these women are? Some of them represent the finest corporate directors U.S. business would ever want to have on their boards. And, now, one is an Ambassador to Argentina. Outstanding, yes?

    2009 - HARRIETT M. WIEDER - Chairman’s Award
    2008 – BARBARA ALEXANDER - Corporate Governance
    2008 - JEANNE JACKSON - Corporate Leadership and Service
    2007 - LINDA FAYNE LEVINSON - Corporate Leadership and Service
    2006 - JANET DAVIDSON, Corporate Citizenship – which one?
    2005 - VILMA S. MARTINEZ, ESQ, for Companies in Transition
    2002 - BETSY SANDERS, The Sanders Partnership
    2001 - KIMBERLY CRIPE, CEO/President, CHOC Hospital
    1999 - CAROL MILTNER, Global Distribution Council
    1997 - KATHRYN BRAUN, Western Digital
    1996 - JULIE NEWCOMB HILL, Hiram-Hill Development

    Thursday, September 10, 2009

    Working Together?

    Cisco CEO John Chambers is on target when he says Internet 2.0 will be defined by pervasive video and collaboration tools. But I’m not sure social networking has evolved to the point of being an effective collaboration vehicle. Collaboration is an interesting word: co: together, labor: to work. The act of working together. Not playing together. Not socializing. Not even networking. Rather, working together.

    I receive countless requests to become a buddy or a contact on a host of social networking tools: IM, LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter. I’m sure they want me as a contact only because they believe they can use me to get to the women in leadership about whom I’ve written in my book, Outstanding in their Field: How Women Corporate Directors Succeed. That’s a pretty sad thought: they don’t want to associate with me. Rather they want me to make it possible for them to associate with others.

    Not too likely. Why? Would a newspaper journalist give away his/her sources? Would a company executive give away his/her client list? Would any professional delight in exposing his/her priority contacts to the unfettered public adulation of social paparazzi? Would you make your personal contact list available to anyone who requested it?

    The questions need to be answered: Why do you want to connect to me? Why are you networking with me? What do you want from me? What is the benefit in our associating with each other? Why would I want to go into this public space with you?

    Because it’s cool, I’m told. Because everyone is doing it, they say. Because it’s so easy. Because I asked you. Because if you don’t, then you must be old. Because I want your business for my business. Because I want your clients for my clients. Because I don’t want to work as hard as you did to accomplish what you did. Because, if you don’t do what I ask, then I’ll tell all my friends that you’re a snob. Because you need me, because I’m part of the next generation. Because mentoring is such a good thing. Because you SHOULD.

    Why would I want to help you succeed? Certainly, it is not because I’m easily intimidated into taking action or making choices. If you want me to help you succeed, then there must be some sort of positive reflection on me -– some benefit to me. When I provided the opportunity for women in leadership to participate in this book, to be interviewed, they had to feel confident that this would benefit them and the things they valued. It could not simply be something that benefited me. I had to allow them to see what I was doing, read what I had researched, see the questions I wanted to ask, and enable them to phrase their answers in words they would find acceptable. In fact, they had to be more impressed with my efforts and the value I was attempting to create than I was impressed by them. Which, believe me, is saying a great deal.

    Somewhere along the way we changed the concept of "mentoring" from something that was given by choice on the part of the individual with the experience and the value into something else that is presumed to be entitled by birth on the part of the individual who has yet to prove him/herself. Today, we are told by no less than our President and our First Lady that we MUST volunteer in service just about everywhere -– in our communities, to our government, to our schools and places of faith. We must give everything of ourselves.

    But, who cares? Who values what is being given if we merely expect this of everyone? Are we able to distinguish anymore between the individual with value who chooses, consciously, to invest in those whom she/he deems worthy of the venture versus everyone else, value or otherwise, who chooses lemming-like to follow the dictates of a commander in chief and his coterie? If everyone gives out of guilt, then how do we determine if what is being given is of value? Or -– even more importantly -– how do we know if the recipient knows how to value that which has been given?

    John Chambers has some interesting and powerful "rules" which guide his business strategies. He chooses technology based on whether it has the capacity to drive productivity. He also believes in strict, ruthless control over costs. Tough! He has a "playbook" by which he runs his businesses. They are the same rules that guide our "working together":

    1. Be realistic -– guage the challenges created by the economy and challenges which are self-inflicted.

    2. Assess your situation -- ask how long a downturn will last and how deep it will be.

    3. Get ready for the upturn.

    4. Get closer to your customers.

    5. Watch the stockmarket to track trends.

    6. Always have more cash, not less.

    7. Be aggressive –- organize yourself to be positioned to compete.

    Good advice for these times: HOW we can work together.

    Saturday, September 5, 2009

    Work Family Balance

    I have been impressed by the work and research of Dr. Anna Fels since reading her book, Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women's Changing Lives, which I reviewed in my blog, back in March 2005: See my review.

    My own book, Outstanding in their Field: How Women Corporate Directors Succeed (Praeger: June 2009) is an attempt to do exactly what she suggested in your book: give women the recognition and credit that they so rightly have earned.

    Many women ask questions about "work family balance" in my speaking events, even though my focus is on governance and leadership. Therefore, I’ve had to deal with the same issues that Dr. Fels addressed. The following are some preliminary thoughts.

    Recently, Dr. Fels appeared in a video presentation on Gender Parity at the World Bank. Gender Parity.

    She noted that, "At the World Bank, many programs have been established in an effort to accommodate families: leave with pay, 'flex' time, and a flexible policy toward paternity leave." Yet despite these programs, only 2% of women avail themselves to these options. "This is particularly striking given that 50% of new hires range from age 35 and below, prime childbearing years," Dr. Fels said. She also noted that "the average age of a female staff member at the birth of her first child is 37."

    One questioner in her audience recognized that there is a divergence between the wishful thinking that women, human resources professionals, and gender studies researchers have about work-family balance programs in the workplace vs. the reality of what actually is working there, which is essentially nothing.

    We keep pointing to "enlightened real leaders" among a few rich companies capable of offering "company store" solutions such as on-site day care, paternity leave, flexible time, etc. Some companies that implement such programs, like Lehman Brothers, also have a tendency to fail and/or eliminate them during times of financial or economic distress. These realities suggest that we have not yet created solutions with a sufficiently well-founded economic foundation that they can endure over the long term or win market share.

    One explanation for the discouraging results is a persistence of barriers and prejudices. "If only women were treated equally." For example, some behaviors are considered ok for men, but women are treated differently. Ironically, such prejudices about women are sustained BY women as much as men. We saw an extensive dialog and debate about Harvard Professor Gates v. Officer Crowley on the subject of race relations, but there seldom is any meaningful dialog confronting prejudices about women. We permit a massive amount of female socialization and conditioning to persist appears in magazines, television and radio. Women often do not challenge their own negative self-portrayal as supportive little woman or other prejudicial images.

    If family-friendly programs, like those at the World Bank, are so highly valued by women, then why do only 2% of eligible women participate? Women would appear to be valuing the alternatives more, whether they want to admit it or not. It’s equally possible that women do not understand how they are evaluating or valuing the options.

    Women like what they see in male career trajectories and want those benefits. AND they also want the ability to participate in family-friendly programs. But these are two mutually exclusive choices. This is the divergence of wishful thinking vs. reality.

    What are some indicators of the "wishful thinking" nature of family-friendly programs?

    The argument that "it's everybody's issue" suggests that if “everyone played nice,” then somehow competition would go away. Yet, we know that when one company or one woman chooses the family friendly option, there is a price or competitive edge to pay.

    The argument that "the workplace" or "society" is the only way to provide viable solutions for individual families creates expectations that are unrealistic in today’s highly disaggregated society. These are huge programmatic expectations that "someone else will take care of" the consequences of individual personal choices and decisions.

    The argument that the nuclear family is the core of society, today, statistically is an anomaly and essentially an urban myth in a contemporary economy where only 3-7% of the US population represents the "traditional nuclear family." That mythical portrayal of "the nuclear family" abounds, however, throughout 150% of the media’s representation of the US population. Women want to believe that it exists in spite of evidence to the contrary.

    The argument that "gender parity" will not exist until children and men change, first, passes the responsibilities on to others. When women have two jobs (work and family) while men have only one, the result is that children thrive, husbands thrive, but the women are miserable. Why would women persist in behavior that is NOT in their own self-interest? The imbalance in the supply-demand relationship of dependent care is sustained by miserable women: why do women accept this situation? It would appear that women gain some substantial psychic benefit from the imbalanced situation. Alternatively, women are not yet feeling enough of the negative disincentives that would induce them to push for change.

    Women are setting up impossible goals for the workplace, for men, and for "society and culture."

    Women are expecting "others" to do all the changing:

  • Create a culture that proves it believes in integrating work-life policies.
  • Make the men participate in paternal leave.
  • Create a culture that values family.
  • Men in high visibility positions should also participate.
  • Organizations must....

    Why do women buy into the argument that they alone are supposed to do the balancing act? The change in their work-family experience, which brought them to this point, has been very slow and imperceptible. We have experienced a slow, steady disappearance of community support infrastructure that used to help with child-care. Why would women be the "only ones who care?"

    Women are looking to the richest, closest source of solutions: the corporate workplace community is the most robust one that can possibly replace the traditional community support systems. Women argue that the workplace is the one most able to deliver possible solutions. Women do not have a long track-record of constructing viable alternative "business-based" solutions to family-oriented problems, on their own, in the entrepreneurial marketplace.

    Women tend to lump all care-giver problems together, overwhelming business resources: child-care, health-care, and elder-care. Add to this, the other workforce issues, such as relational aggression of women-to-women, salary differentials, male prejudice, male bonding, differentials of communications, etc. Sometimes, the bills of particulars appear to be never ending. Should business resolve all of the problems women say they face?

    Anna Fels suggests a menu of options to better integrate family and work activities. She presumes that companies would be willing to pay for these programs, and that men and women would be willing to pay (in the form of adjustments to compensation) to have them available.

    A Menu of Options (and some unaddressed consequences).

    1. Available housing near place of work; reduce commuting. Work and family separation in space and geography doesn't fit with two working member family. (Puts companies in the business of providing housing proximate to work.)

    2. Day care for employees. (Puts companies in the business of providing child care.)

    3. Rooms on-site for sick kids; near parents’ worksite. (Puts companies in the business of providing on-site health care.)

    4. Having pediatricians/doctors nearby or on site. (Puts companies at liability for medical support.)

    5. Creation of schools on-site; public schools near work places. (Puts companies and school traffic in close proximity.)

    6. Oxygen (Women's Network) allows workers to bring in babies, children, dogs into the workplace. (Puts other employees in a position of not having in-work benefits; differential employment treatment.)

    7. Expanding men's role in childcare. Women presume that "men will never agree to do more for childcare." Yet, women persist in the argument that "men must change first."

    Perhaps if women would cease holding stereotypical gender preconceptions about men, first, then men might respond differently -– which is actually suggested by the research. For example, in the absence of a mothers’ female kin, men respond to familial needs and fathers compensate by doing 20 times more caretaking. Reluctant fathers who have no choice but to raise children are serious homemakers and very good nurturers. Care is a fungible commodity. Men and women are flexibly opportunistic.

    The failure of family-friendly programs often is attributed to an inability of businesses and business people to be able to "manage" the disparate demands that result from bringing family into the workplace. Why don’t we focus on improving the management side of the workplace issues? And why don’t we also focus on improving the management side of the family entity as a basic business unit?

    Do women fully understand the impact of their proposals on the companies and other workers?

  • How do workers manage remote or flexible work schedules?
  • How do workers divide their attentions between personal concerns (children) and professional concerns (the job).
  • How do workers gain the experience of travel and exposure to other distant cultures while staying at home?
  • Does teleconferencing provide the same quality of experience handling remote work challenges?
  • How well do we train workers to manage remote work?
  • How effectively do we manage the quantity and quality of work content?
  • Why are workers investing in 60-80 hour weeks/12 hour days? Does management know the content of their workers days today?
  • Does business know the value of output from meeting time? Is it worth the investment?
  • How effectively does management handle conflict: women to women, men to women, manager to subordinate?
  • How effectively does management coordinate people from different backgrounds, motivations, generations and experiences in the workplace?
  • Do companies and employees suffer competitively by instituting family-friendly programs?

    What is also interesting is that the "pent up demand" that supposedly exists (wait lists of 400 families, 3 years or more for on-site corporate day care facilities) has not been addressed by any entrepreneurial business solution or consortia of small businesses providing such services as collectives of entrepreneurs. Perhaps because we only focus on the wishful thinking that "if only everyone would work together" to solve the problems that women perceive to be important, we might be missing out on many other viable business options. To the hammer, every problem appears to be a nail.

    We appear unable to conceptualize solutions that are market-based: naively hoping for solutions that are fully subsidized by government or rich corporations. If women had a better appreciation of the economics, costs, benefits and tradeoffs of the solutions they propose, perhaps they might consider creating alternative small businesses that could thrive and endure more successfully than token and temporal public policy programs or expensive company-store solutions that simply pass the costs incurred onto unsuspecting consumers.

    The issues certainly are not simple. My goal is to simply begin to address them from some new perspectives.
  • Sunday, August 30, 2009

    The Tough Problems

    Women are beginning to learn how to deal with hard-core business problems. Exemplary issues include the debate over the leadership of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), allegations that the California Board of Registered Nursing failed to act in a timely manner to de-register nurses charged with drug violations, performance lapses on the part of Child Protective Services staff, unauthorized and illegal snooping into private patient files at area hospitals, and the latest investigative reports that Los Angeles Unified School District failed to fire problematic teachers.

    According to the WSJ.com Golf Forum article, "The LPGA’s Leadership Challenge," (July 31, 2009) at online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204886304574306691319784558.html.
    the LPGA is facing a "players’ revolt" -– something like shareholder uprising. The executive director resigned -– reminiscent of like a forced executive turnover. Marsha Johnson Evans, retired Navy rear admiral, was elevated from board member to commissioner – sort of like naming a new CEO from the director pool. Shareholders and stakeholders in the LPGA include the member players and the LPGA Tournament Owners Association consisting of 25 independent entities from sponsors, tournament owners, nonprofits, sports marketing companies, and community organizations.

    Press reports describe a three tier strategy that needs to be solidified for the LPGA to succeed.

    First, they need to re-build a genuinely trusting and respectful relationship with the players, many of whom come from overseas.

    Second, the LPGA Tour has to stop the hemorraging of tournaments: in 2008 there were 34, in 2009 there are 28, but in 2010 there were only 14 commitments. Tournament owners and sponsors both had lost confidence in the LPGA leadership.

    The third and final constituency to be wooed includes advertisers, marketers, and the media.

    Ironically, the previous executive director focused on the third priority: finalizing a 10 year contract with the Golf Channel to provide the LPGA with a long-term window into the media, the last leg of the triangle.

    The job Ms. Evans faces is both to find a new leader willing to take on the multi-headed hydra which the LPGA has become, but also, meanwhile, to operate this multi-ship fleet of diverse operational units and get them all going in the same direction for a change. It’s not just a simple challenge of re-building a broken team spirit. Rather, this must seem much more lot like "herding kittens" to Ms. Evans. Which it is.

    Thursday, July 9, 2009

    Fishing for Female Directors?

    Or just PHISHING?

    This is in reply to "Name Withheld," the letter to Susan Pinker (Psychologist: Problem Solving column, Globe and Mail, Toronto, CANADA) July 1, 2009.

    If Name Withheld really IS head of the nominating committee for a corporate board, you probably already tried both of Ms. Pinker’s recommendations for finding women candidates with experience in your industry and competent to serve as a corporate director.

    I would wager a copy of my book, Outstanding In Their Field: How Women Corporate Directors Succeed, that Name Withheld probably already tapped those "public and non-profit sectors" which have a lot of women, but which represent small percentages of the capabilities and the talent needed to serve on today’s public company boards (8.5% and 5.3% of the experience cited by women who actually do serve on California Fortune 1000 boards, respectively, according to my research).

    Since Name’s company is large enough to have a nominating committee and to be concerned about shareholder discussions, you also probably tried to play spin-the-Rolodex of board executive search professionals and discovered that corporate board qualifications require true leadership experience, not simply middle management experience.

    Beverly Topping, executive director of the Institute for Corporate Directors (ICD), with 9 chapters throughout Canada, must be pulling her hair out at the idea of a Canadian company writing to a newspaper career search/psychologist for advice on how to find top business leaders capable of guiding a company through its strategic business challenges, past the Scylla and Charybdis of contemporary regulation. The ICD is one of the finest corporate governance programs in North America, providing education, extensive outreach, research, and an extensive database of top (certified) talent for corporate boards.

    All of which make me think this be a PHISHING exercise!

    But, let’s assume Name is serious about not looking for Ms. Goodbar in the same old places where skirts gather or guys brood. First, the nominating committee needs to assess what are the specific business challenges you need to face with a great board team? What skills, experiences, and capabilities are you currently missing? What are the competency gaps you need to fill for you to address your strategic planning and growth objectives? Where are there women working to solve those kinds of practical, pragmatic business problems?

    Look for women who have skills in your business needs and industry. Look to mixed gender professional associations (the bar association, the technology association, the accounting associations and boards) where women are collaborating to address these business challenges with male team members.

    Look for women who have added value to their own professional skills through investment in their education, experience and capabilities beyond university levels.
    Look for women who have graduate degrees and executive educations in subject fields relevant to your demands. Look for evidence that they have poured their own time and money into developing their skills.

    Look for women who have built real business entities, maybe a P&L center within a corporation or maybe an angel, venture, or investment fund. Have they put any of their own money at risk, such that they would know what your business is experiencing by putting your money at risk? Look for women who have built a profitable entrepreneurial business, themselves: growing the business by team-building and generating returns on investment just like you.

    Look for women who know how to build collaborative business teams, pay employees for their productivity and for their ability to solve business problems creatively. Look for women at the very top of their professional careers.

    The challenge is to find women who are in business corporations and who work daily with the reality that business may not be perfect, but it is the source of salaries, taxes, healthcare, retirement, and investment in the future. The challenge is to find women who are able, ready, and willing to lead through governance in today’s tougher, more regulated public company setting.

    If Name wants "just anyone in a skirt," there are plenty of places to find lots and lots of women. But, if Name is serious, then your board will not be satisfied until it finds women who are "outstanding in their field," which is, truly and after all, the only way women corporate directors succeed.