Members of the House unanimously voted yesterday to pass Massachusetts State Resolution S1007, urging companies to put at least three women on their boards of nine or greater by the year 2018. For smaller companies, the resolution recommends that boards include at least two women. The passing of the non-binding resolution, which was also passed by the Massachusetts Senate over the summer, shows a commitment to gender diversity in local business.
Members of the House suggested Bay State companies publicly disclose the number of women on their boards and in management positions, and that they adopt policies on gender diversity. Many also said that 20 percent representation of women on boards should be a minimum requirement, and that companies should consider placing even more women in these roles. Several representatives said a call for 20 percent representation should be the minimum, and expressed hope that companies would go beyond this goal.
“This is not a women’s issue. Research shows that gender diversity is good business and results in higher sales, greater corporate morale, and better return on investment for stakeholders,” said Malli Gero, Co-Founder and President of 2020 Women on Boards. “By adhering to this resolution, companies across the Commonwealth are committing to best practices for an effective business in the 21st century.”
“This issue boils down to one simple thing: increasing the number of women on boards and in top corporate positions is good for the Massachusetts economy,” said Jesse Mermell, Executive Director of The Alliance for Business Leadership. “Kudos to our state legislature for calling for change that we know will create growth and opportunity across the Commonwealth.”
The resolution was sponsored in the House by State Representative Patricia Haddad, D-Somerset, who said that despite making up 52 percent of the population and 48 percent of the state workforce, women in Massachusetts hold just 14.9 percent of the corporate board seats and represent just 11.8 percent of executive managers. State Senator Karen Spilka, D-Ashland sponsored the resolution in the Senate last summer, after attending The Alliance for Business Leadership’s Clearing the Path Event—a meeting to advance Massachusetts’ competitive position in the global economy by supporting women in the work place.
With passage of Resolution S1007, Massachusetts follows in the footsteps of California which in 2013 passed Resolution 62 calling for boards of nine or more to have a minimum of three women directors by 2016. That same year, the City of Philadelphia passed Bill No. 13045701, an ordinance requiring contractors seeking to do business in the city to disclose certain demographic information including gender, race, and geographic data of those serving as board members and executive staff. And, in the spring of 2015, the House of Representatives in the State of Illinois passed Resolution No. 0439, a non-binding legislation similar to California’s.
The momentum continues to grow, with state initiatives now brewing in New York, North Carolina, and Ohio. As more states pass similar resolutions, there is hope that gender diversity on corporate boards will eventually be addressed at the national level.