DETROIT — High-growth, entrepreneurial-minded companies in Michigan are more likely than publicly held companies to employ a woman in a key leadership role.

That’s among the major findings of a new “Michigan Entrepreneurial Leadership Report” released Monday by the Inforum Center for Leadership, an offshoot of the organization formerly known as the Women’s Economic Club, and the accounting firm Ernst & Young LLP.

The study is a snapshot of women’s leadership in Michigan’s highest-performing entrepreneurial companies — those who have been recognized for their vision, innovation and strong record of financial performance and are the driving force behind growth and economic development.

This new study, which builds on Inforum’s biennial “Michigan Women’s Leadership Index” (MWLI), looks at the presence of women in the leadership ranks of high-growth and innovative entrepreneurial companies in Michigan. Among the key findings:

* Sixty-one percent of all respondents report having at least one woman serving in a C-level or equivalent senior leadership position in their organization; 87 percent reported having a woman in a leadership role that leads a division or department and reports directly to the CEO or other most senior position in the company. By contrast, the 2011 MWLI found that 49 percent of Michigan’s top 100 public companies had no female top-level executives.

* Overall, 69 percent of companies with a board of directors had at least one woman member. Of those with a board of advisors, 64 percent had at least one woman member. According to the 2011 MWLI, 53 percent of Michigan’s top 100 private companies had at least one woman director.

Women in entrepreneurial companies have a good chance of participating at a high level, even when those companies are founded by men.

* Among the high-growth, entrepreneurial-minded companies surveyed, the average number of women in senior roles was almost double in women-founded companies as compared with companies founded by men. However, the level of executive participation of women among companies founded by men was also significantly higher than in the largest public companies in Michigan.

* Leadership roles of respondents that report directly to the CEO or equivalent senior-level decision maker are broadly distributed across functions:
— 30 percent – operations / product development
— 28 percent – finance
— 20 percent – sales
— 16 percent – human resources
—  6 percent – marketing

“This research points to what Ernst & Young already knows to be true: companies with diversity in its leadership ranks tend to get stronger business results,” said Jeff Bergeron, Ernst & Young’s Detroit managing partner. “We’re proud to work alongside Inforum on this survey and other programs that help women entrepreneurs achieve their potential and drive innovation and growth.”

The “Michigan Entrepreneurial Leadership Report” shows that entrepreneurial-minded companies in general – those with high-growth and a recognized innovative culture – are incorporating more women in senior roles.

“The results of this first snapshot into the leadership ranks of high-growth and innovative entrepreneurial companies are encouraging,” said Terry Barclay, CEO of Inforum and Inforum Center for Leadership. “The study underscores the value of tapping into the full potential of women’s leadership at the highest levels of a company to drive economic growth.”

The full study will be released on April 24 at an Inforum event focused on the growing economic power of women. The keynote speaker will be Beth Brooke, global vice chair, public policy at Ernst & Young, who will discuss the Third Billion campaign.

Over the next decade, the impact of women on the global economy — as producers, entrepreneurs, employees and consumers — will be at least as significant as that of China’s and India’s respective one-billion-plus populations, if not greater. If women’s economic potential can be successfully harnessed and leveraged, it would be the equivalent of having an additional one billion individuals in business and in the workforce, contributing to the global economy: often referred to as the “third billion.”

The April 24 event will be held in the Woodward Ballroom on the second floor of the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel, 1114 Washington Boulevard, Detroit. Tickets are $50 for Inforum members and $65 for nonmembers. The event begins with registration at 11:30 p.m. The program runs from noon to 1:30 p.m.

Inforum is the leading professional organization focused on creating strategic connections and accelerating careers for women throughout Michigan and the Midwest. Inforum serves a broad range of professional women at different stages of their careers — from emerging leaders, to high-potential executives, entrepreneurs, and corporate board leaders. Inforum has offices in Detroit and Grand Rapids with operations in Kalamazoo and Lansing. For more information, visit


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