Alliance leader and board member Trish Karter, Founder of LightEffect Farms, was featured in the Boston Globe July 20th, 2015 for her work on gender parity for corporate boards in Massachusetts. Read more below, or see the original article by Jon Chesto here.
July is not the best of time of the year to get busy business people to spend the afternoon at the State House.
But when the issue is the need for putting more women on corporate boards, one can understand why they would show up. The gap remains stark: As of a year ago, women held only about 15 percent of the board seats at the 100 largest public companies in the state, according to the Boston Club’s research.
Trish Karter is among the biggest champions of the cause. The former Dancing Deer Baking Co. CEO and board member at the left-leaning Alliance for Business Leadership hosted a forum of C-level types in June 2014 at MIT to discuss improving pay for women and increasing their representation on boards of directors.
That event, backed by The Alliance, helped prompt state Senator Karen Spilka of Ashland to file a bill aimed at encouraging corporate boards with fewer than nine directors to include at least two women, and larger ones to have at least three.
Now, the bill will get its day at the State House. Karter plans to join other high-profile executives on Tuesday to advocate for the proposal. The Legislature’s labor and workforce committee will take it up alongside separate bills aimed at strengthening the state’s laws on equal pay for women and improving accommodations for workers who are pregnant or breast feeding.
The new board proposal would also encourage companies to disclose the number of women on their boards. Although the bill would be nonbinding, Karter said it could still have a big impact by sending an important message.
“You talk to almost any CEO about this issue and they say, ‘Yeah, we agree,’ and then nothing happens,” Karter said. “If we can improve our performance . . . I see this is as yet one more way in which Massachusetts can outperform its neighboring states and the nation as a whole.”
Among those scheduled to testify in favor of the bill is a panel with Biogen senior director Javier Barrientos, Eastern Bank president Bob Rivers, and Bennie Wiley, former CEO of The Partnership .
Rivers acknowledges his company has fallen short on the issue: Currently, he said, two of Eastern Bank’s 12 board members are women. Rivers said he is eager to improve that number, in part because it’s better for business.
“The business issue is making sure you have the greatest diversity of thought at your company,” Rivers said, “that you’re taking advantage of the greatest pool of talent available.” — JON CHESTO