‘Progress is slow, unfortunately’

Thirty Percent Coalition making inroads toward goal of more women on boards

Most of us learn to crawl before we walk.

The same can be said of the Thirty Percent Coalition, a group formed out of a New York City summit in late 2011 to address the lack of gender diversity in boardrooms.

Composed of senior business executives across a wide range of industries, national women’s organizations, statewide elected officials and institutional investors, the coalition is striving to see that qualified female executives hold 30 percent of board seats across public companies by the end of 2015.

Researchers — including Vicki Kramer, the coalition’s board president — consider at least three women on an average board of 10 to be mainstream, or a critical mass. Kramer has written papers on the subject.

“We do feel we’re making some inroads, in the collective sense,” said Charlotte Laurent-Ottomane, the coalition’s executive director. “Progress is slow, unfortunately.”

Various research states that women occupy somewhere between 12 percent and 16 percent of corporate board seats.

The coalition has sent letters to companies within the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and the Russell 1000. It has targeted those with no women on their boards, citing studies that show a strong correlation between greater gender diversity, better corporate governance and long-term financial performance.

A 2012 report from Credit Suisse found that for large-cap stocks — those with a market cap greater than $10 billion — the companies with female board members outperformed those without women by 26 percent between the end of 2005 and end of 2011.

For small-to-mid-cap stocks, those with women on the board outperformed those without by 17 percent over the same period.

“Most are interested in a diversity of perspectives,” said state Treasurer Rob McCord, a coalition member.

But taking action and selecting more women for corporate boards is a different story, he said.

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