Maryland lags rest of region in women business leaders.

By V. Dion Haynes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 19, 2010

While the Washington area has an above-average concentration of women business leaders, Maryland lags the region and nation in number of female corporate board members and appears to be losing women executives, according to a new report.

Results of a census of 92 Maryland-based, publicly traded companies showed a mixed bag: The number of women board members inched up for the third consecutive year but the number of women executives declined slightly.

Last year, women held 9.2 percent of the board seats, up from 8.8 percent in 2008 and 7.95 percent in 2007, according to the report by Network 2000, an advocacy organization for women business leaders. At the same time, the report said, the share of women executives dropped to 10.4 percent from 10.6 percent in 2008.

Nationally, women held 15.2 percent of board seats in 2009, according to the report. Network 2000 did not gather data on the number of women executives across the country last year.

Maryland lags in those areas, according to the group, because the state is heavy with scientific and biotech firms that typically have fewer women than other kinds of companies and it has few of the headquarters for firms in such sectors as retail that have high numbers of women at the top. Still, the group is pressing companies that fared poorly in the number of women leaders to improve their numbers.

There are "roughly one-third of companies with no women on their boards -- one-third, that's pretty significant," said Ellen Fish, executive vice president of CFG Community Bank in Baltimore, who serves as vice president of Network 2000.

"We're advocating for [corporations] to make a conscious decision to have diversity," Fish added. "If you have the same like-thinking people on a board [or in the executive suites], you will get the same answers. If you have diversity, you'll get a different conversation and that should add value to a company."

According to the Greater Washington Initiative, the marketing arm for the Greater Washington Board of Trade, the region has the highest proportion of women executives of any U.S. metropolitan area. For every 100,000 women workers, the region claims 1,213 women in executive or management positions -- 1.2 percent. That is 56 percent higher than the national average.

Women executive and corporate board members in the Washington area include Barbara J. Krumsiek, president, chief executive and chairman of Calvert Investments in Bethesda; Linda Rabbitt, chief executive and chairman of Rand Construction in the District; M. Charito Kruvant, president and chief executive of professional services firm Creative Associates International in D.C.; and Catherine L. Hughes, chairperson and secretary of Lanham-based Radio One.

Maryland's largest corporations had the best marks, according to the survey. For instance, all state Fortune 500 companies have at least one women board member, compared with 90 percent nationally. Women filled 17.3 percent of the board seats at Fortune 500 companies in the state, surpassing the national average of 15.2 percent. The rank of minority women reached 15 seats last year, up from three seats in 2008.

Fish said, in general, start ups and newer corporations fared worst. She said corporations typically don't focus on governance and diversity issues until they are more mature.

But the number of companies in the state with women executives shrank. Last year, 61 percent of the companies had no women executives, up from 57 percent in 2008.

"Clearly, I think, having a pipeline at all levels [to move women in management to the executive level] is really important," said Jane Allan Bowie, executive director of Network 2000.

According to the report, 14 companies last year had women filling 20 percent or more of their board seats. Those include Constellation Energy Group in Baltimore, Host Hotels & Resorts in Bethesda and the Adams Express Company in Baltimore.

But one-third of 92 public companies in the state had no women executives or board members last year. Those include Jos. A. Bank Clothiers in Hampstead, Discovery Communications in Silver Spring and software firm Vocus Inc. in Lanham, according to the report.

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