The “B” Word

What actually goes on in the Board room?  Does it matter who’s in there when decisions are made?

“B” is for Boards, as in, that male-dominated gaggle of experts whose profound knowledge and expertise accelerate a company’s success. That merry band of who’s who, whose resources and name recognition buy your company credibility. Or opportunity. Or time.

“B” is for Board Room, that man-cave like sanctuary where big decisions get made.

In the Board Room, beyond fiduciary duties, the roles and responsibilities of a board of directors can vary depending on things like the company’s business or industry, or the stage in its lifecycle. But invariably, boards hire, fire, and compensate chief executives. They inform and approve corporate strategy and key business decisions. They consider and adopt policies that impact employees, customers, and communities. So yes, it matters who is there to make those decisions.

Gender diversity matters in the Board room. Companies led by boards that include women perform better on everything from return on equity, sales, and invested capital, to corporate social responsibility. Women bring talent and insights desperately needed. In the technology sector for example, women directors are nearly twice as likely as men to possess professional technology experience, which seems like it might be a good thing for a technology company.

And yet women are woefully underrepresented on corporate boards. Just last year, the 2020 Women on Boards Gender Diversity Index of Fortune 1000 companies showed that only 17.9% of corporate directors were women. According to Catalyst, women of color account for a mere 2.8% of directors on Fortune 500 boards, and are twice as likely as white women to serve on multiple boards – meaning, companies are overly relying on the same few women of color rather than making space for more.

Of the 22 Washington companies on the Fortune 1000 list, ZERO have majority female boards. ZERO have a 50/50 gender balanced board. In fact, you might be surprised at how some of our state’s giants have shut women out of the Board Room:

ZERO women on the board of Zillow.

2 women on the boards of Costco (15%), Expedia (15%), and Nordstrom (17%)

3 women on the boards of Microsoft (27%) and Starbucks (23%)

A notable exception to this embarrassing list is Alaska Air, with 5 women on the board (45%).

Gender is far from the only type of diversity we should demand in the Board Rooms of the companies that so profoundly impact our region. But it’s an important one. 51% of the country is now female. Is it preposterous to think that a female majority board might have a competitive advantage in this changing demographic landscape?

Which gets to me to the final “B”. The big “B”. B is for Bring It. As in, bring on your best, lamest, most thinly transparent excuses for why this status quo is acceptable. Because we’re ready, and we’re coming for the Board Room.