When the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) announced that Letitia A. Long was taking over as the agency’s director in 2010, it was a watershed moment in government. For the first time, a woman would be taking the helm of an intelligence agency, which had never happened before.
In addition, from female leaders like DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to the growing number of women in Congress, one would assume that industry would mirror government’s and the electorate’s efforts to elevate women into leadership positions.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. According to a new study by Women in Technology (WIT), there is an ongoing void of women serving as board members at publicly traded companies in the D.C. metropolitan area.
The study, co-sponsored by American University’s Kogod School of Business, found that:
- Over 37 percent of companies in the region have no women serving on their boards
- Women hold only 10 percent of the total 2,115 public company board seats in the region
- For companies that have one woman director, these women represent only 10 percent of the total board composition for those organizations
- 94 percent of Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. companies do not achieve the “critical mass” of three or more women board members
“As the founder of a woman-owned business, I would certainly like to see more woman being elevated to board-level positions in companies in the area – especially those that sell products and services to the federal government,” said Lisa Dezzutti, President and CEO of Market Connections, Inc.
With the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) maintaining an Office of Women’s Business Ownership, which offers in-person assistance and educational resources to help women start and grow successful small businesses, clearly providing opportunities for women is important to government.
In addition, the SBA formalized a program in April 2011 that allows contracting officers to set aside procurements for woman-owned small businesses. However, as the Washington Post recently pointed out, bringing these contracts to light may take more time than expected.
As WIT pointed out, its recent study reinforces the need for programs that help women prepare for roles on corporate boards, as well as connect them with companies striving to fill this void.
To meet this need, WIT offers its Leadership Foundry program, which provides “intensive board training sessions, access to the knowledge of a steering committee of industry leaders with extensive board experience, and networking with organizations looking to recruit board members.”
“This is an outstanding program that we support wholeheartedly,” Dezzutti said. “We hope to see more efforts being put into programs that advance opportunities for women in the business world. WIT’s recent study should motivate area businesses to break down the glass ceiling and invite more women business leaders onto their boards.”