BALTIMORE — Maryland has fewer companies, and therefore board seats, than it used to, but more of those seats are filled by women.
According to Network 2000 Inc.’s 2014 Census of Women Board Directors in Maryland, women filled 86 board of director positions in the state in 2013, compared to 73 in 2012.
“That’s a movement we love to see,” said Katherine Bays Armstrong, president of Network 2000. “I would like to believe it’s because companies are recognizing now the importance of including and increasing the women’s presence.”
The total number of board seats in the state actually declined by 37 in 2013 to 646, so the percentage of seats held by women increased from 10.7 percent to 13.3 percent. That’s the greatest percentage increase that Network 2000 has seen in a single year since it began surveying companies in 2008.
The survey is conducted by reviewing the annual reports of Maryland companies listed on the major stock exchanges.
The organization’s current goal for Maryland is to have 20 percent of board seats filled by women by the year 2020. That goal is based on the nationwide call to action from the organization 2020 Women on Boards.
But meeting that goal will require that the percentage of board members who are female grow by nearly 7 percentage points in the next seven years, when it has grown by only 4.5 since 2008.
“I am optimistic about the 2020,” said Nancy Sloan, Network 2000’s member engagement chairwoman, who led the group’s census committee for several years. “It’s not that I think that 20 percent is going to come easily. It’s going to require a lot of continued focus.”
Network 2000 has taken some steps to push that progress along. It has built a mentoring program for women in middle management, and it recently created a list of board-ready women for Maryland companies to reference when filling board seats.
“We would go around and we would interview the CEOs of publicly traded companies,” said Sloan. “They always asked us, ‘Can you tell us who these women are?'”
Next year, said Armstrong, they will be able to seek help from executive leaders themselves. Network 2000 is currently working to create a corporate advisory board of CEOs from major corporations in the Baltimore area.
If Maryland meets its goal for 2020, that will not be an end game for the organization’s efforts.
“We just frankly want equality,” said Armstrong.
The number of companies with no women directors or executives has decreased from 24 in 2012 to 15 in 2013, but women are still usually in the minority on the board in Maryland, even though more women in the U.S. have masters’, professional or doctorate degrees than men. Only 6 Maryland companies have more than two women on their boards.
The organization cited eight Maryland companies that have 20 percent or more women on the board and in the executive suite:
— The Adams Express Co.
— Chindex International Inc.
— Federal Realty Investment Trust
— First United Corp.
— Lockheed Martin Corp.
— Medifast Inc.
— Northwest Biotherapeutics Inc.
— Petroleum & Resources Corp.
Armstrong said that studies have suggested companies with women leaders perform better.
A 2007 report by Catalyst said that the Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women board directors had significantly higher financial performance.
“Women bring a different viewpoint, a different perspective,” said Armstrong. “It’s good for business because it’s good for the bottom line.”