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Michigan Public Companies Making Steady But Slow Progress Naming Women to Top Roles

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DETROIT — Research shows there is a strong correlation between how well corporations develop and promote women leaders and how successful those corporations are in the marketplace. According to the Inforum Center for Leadership 2011 Michigan Women’s Leadership Index, to be released Monday, Michigan companies have made progress on that score, but could do a lot better.

First published in 2003, the MWLI is a biennial survey that looks at women board members and senior executives at the 100 largest publicly held corporations headquartered in Michigan (the “Michigan Index 100″) and breaks out additional data on Fortune 500 companies based in Michigan. As in 2009, the 2011 index was complied for ICL by the Eastern Michigan University College of Business.

Among the key trends for 2011:
* Women hold 10.37 percent of the 849 board seats at Michigan Index 100 companies. That’s up from just 9.6 percent of total board seats in 2003, when the MWLI was first published.
* Among Michigan’s Fortune 500 companies, women hold 35 (17.86 percent) of the total 196 board seats. This represents a nearly six-percentage-point increase since 2003 (12.1 percent).
* Several good companies are getting better. For the first time, women directors make up 36.36 percent of the boards of three large companies: General Motors, Kelly Services and Steelcase.
* The number of Michigan Index 100 companies with at least one woman listed among their top-compensated executives has moved from a low of 16 in 2005 to the high of 36 in both 2009 and 2011.

“Now that 60 percent of new college graduates are women, the war for the best and brightest talent will favor those companies that foster women’s leadership. Michigan employers need to be seen as organizations where women can lead and succeed,” said Terry Barclay, CEO of Inforum and Inforum Center for Leadership. “That’s why the Michigan Women’s Leadership Index is so important. It’s a biennial reality check on how well Michigan companies are doing at recruiting and naming female leaders.”

David E. Mielke, dean of the EMU College of Business, said that, while the MWLI does not tell the whole story about opportunities for women in Michigan, it has established itself as an important, closely watched benchmark.

“We’re glad to again be providing the research for the MWLI again this year,” Mielke said. “At EMU, we care a lot about the future of business in this state. And nothing could be more important to that future than the role women — now roughly half the workforce — will play in leading it.”

“Research provides a strong correlation between women’s leadership and the success of enterprises that do a good job of fostering it,” said Megan Endres, Ph.D., associate professor of management, Eastern Michigan University and lead researcher for the 2011 MWLI. “Women corporate leaders bring male-dominated companies a diversity of outlooks and opinions that they otherwise would lack. That leads to better decision making, fewer mistakes and, potentially, higher profits over time.”

The full results of the 2011 Michigan Women’s Leadership Index will be revealed at a luncheon event Monday at the Westin Hotel, Southfield. At that event Rebecca Blumenstein, deputy managing editor and international editor at the Wall Street Journal will lead a panel discussion entitled “Claiming Corporate Leadership: Michigan Women’s Leadership Index and the Future of Our State.”

The panelists will be Dennis Archer, independent corporate director and former Detroit mayor and Michigan Supreme Court justice; Cynthia Brinkley, vice president, global human resources, General Motors; Meredith Miller, chief corporate governance officer, UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust; Donald R. Parfet, director, Kelly Services, and founder and general partner, Apjohn Group;  Holly Van Deursen, independent director, angel investor, former Group VP of BP Perspective.

At the event, Inforum will present its first-ever Inforum BoardAccess Award to representatives of General Motors, Kelly Services and Steelcase, in recognition of the high percentage of women directors on their boards. Women directors make up make up 36.36 percent of the boards at each company. Board Access provides resources and networking opportunities to develop qualified women candidates for seats on public and private corporate boards of directors. The initiative is expected to help retain Michigan’s top female executive talent, enhance corporate decision-making processes and improve board diversity.

Registration begins at 11:30 a.m. for Monday’s event with the luncheon and panel from noon to 1:30 p.m.

Tickets to the event are $50 for Inforum members, $65 for nonmembers or $575 for a table of 10.

For more information and to register online: visit www.InforumMichigan.org.

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