Having more women on boards is a smart business move – Footwear News

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As more and more women in the industry move into leadership positions, there is also noticeable movement in another key area of ​​business: the boardroom.

According to a recent report by Women Business Collaborative, 2021 has been a “pivotal year”. Women held 27% of all board seats, up from 24% in 2020. This is the largest year-over-year increase for the Russell 3000, which includes the top 3,000 United States public companies.

The momentum continues as 2022 progresses, with retailers like Macy’s Inc. leading the way. At the end of March, the department store added two women – Marie Chandoha, former president and CEO of Charles Schwab Investment Management, and Jill Granoff, former CEO of Vince and managing partner of Eurazeo – to its board of directors, effective March 1. april.

The announcement marked the latest in a string of notable appointments over the past few years – and a shift in how retail companies select people for their boards. In other words, look beyond a small group of CEOs who are often predominantly white males. As of October, 8.2% of Fortune 500 CEOs were women, according to the 2021 Women CEOs in America report.

For Macy’s, board diversity has been a corporate goal for years. The retailer first achieved gender parity on its board in 2015 and has hovered around that percentage since then, never dropping below 40%. With these latest appointments, its board is now 50% women, with 31% non-white members and three out of 14 identifying as members of the LGBTQ community.

“Having such strong leaders from all walks of life is an inspiration to our colleagues,” said Elisa Garcia, Chief Legal Officer at Macy’s Inc. “It reassures them that they could walk down a similar path. [here].”

Macy’s isn’t the only retail company making progress in this area. Gap Inc.’s 13-person board includes six women. And Fortune’s 2022 Modern Board 25 — which ranks corporate boards based on gender, race and age diversity — gave high marks to Walmart, Best Buy and Amazon.

Today, more and more companies are seeking to correct the historical lack of representation in these governance roles for women.

How Retail Compares

In 2010, 16% of S&P 500 board members were women, according to data from New York’s Women’s Forum, which seeks to promote female leaders across industries. In 2021, this number has increased to 30%.

“The pace of change has picked up, but not fast enough,” said Janice Reals Ellig, founder of the Women’s Forum of New York’s Corporate Board Initiative and its Breakfast of Corporate Champions.

The forum’s stated goal is to achieve 50% gender parity on boards by 2025, which would mean that half of board vacancies would be filled by women each year. until there. Given the lofty goal, Ellig said she would be satisfied with 40%.

Compared to other sectors, retail leads the way, ranking among the top performing sectors for gender diversity within the S&P 500, according to a July 2021 study by nonprofit BoardReady.

Caleres Inc. particularly stood out. The company’s board of directors is 55% women (six out of 11 directors) and 20% of members identify as racially or ethnically diverse.

“It took a focused effort that started more than five years ago,” said Caleres President and CEO Diane Sullivan, who explained that the company was proactively looking for female leaders who could reflect its consumers. , 70% of whom are women and children. “We are a stronger, more strategic company because our Board of Directors has the thinking, experience and capabilities we need, while reflecting the communities we serve.”

At the Women’s Forum of New York’s Breakfast of Corporate Champions in New York in November, Caleres was one of 44 companies across all industries recognized for achieving or exceeding gender parity on their boards. In total, approximately 240 companies were praised for having 35% or more female representation, including Tapestry, Designer Brands, Gap, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom, TJX Companies, Foot Locker, Genesco, PVH, Wolverine World Wide and more.

Tapestry Inc., the parent company of Coach, Kate Spade and Stuart Weitzman, has a 10-person board made up of 50% women, led by chairman Anne Gates. Like Sullivan, Tapestry CEO Joanne Crevoiserat said the board aims to represent its diverse consumer base. As such, 40% of the council also identify as people of color.

“When you lack gender parity, you miss the richness of perspectives that you would otherwise get with a balanced board,” Crevoiserat said, later adding, “We know that having a wide range of perspectives, backgrounds and of experiences makes us more innovative and successful, and it brings us closer to our consumers. Both in our company and at the board level, a diverse candidate slate is essential. »

When gender diversity on the board is the law

Until recently, it was a law for companies headquartered in California to add women to their boards. California Senate Bill 826, passed in 2018, required public companies based there to appoint at least one female director to their board by the end of 2019, or face fines . A Los Angeles judge struck down the law on Friday, ruling it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the California Constitution.

But since the bill passed, the number of women on Golden State boards has more than doubled, according to the nonprofit California Partners Project, which was partly founded by the governor’s wife. Newsom, Jennifer Siebel Newsom. And in 2021, more than half (50.4%) of California board appointees were women.

Leigha Weinberg, who leads gender equity work for the California Partners Project, said the economic benefits of improving gender diversity on boards include employee satisfaction, better risk management and consumer safety and less fraud.

“Research shows – and the law was based on the idea – that when you get to three or more female directors, you see the greatest impact and benefit of that diversity on the board,” he said. she declared.

One example of the law’s impact is Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based Skechers USA Inc., which added Yolanda Macias to its board in April, bringing the number of women on its board to three. eight-person board (all three appointed within the last three years).

Outside the United States, law-based gender equality efforts are also gaining momentum. European Union labor and employment officials in March endorsed a plan to demand gender balance on the boards of state-owned companies.

Under the new rules, public companies headquartered in the EU must aim for 40% of non-executive director positions to be held by women by 2027. The impact of such legislation we’ll see.

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