Women remain underrepresented in executive suites and corporate boards, although progress is evident, EMU research concludes

by Geoff Larcom, Published October 21, 2011

There exists a strong correlation between how well corporations develop and promote their female leaders and how successful those corporations are in the marketplace, according to research conducted by the Eastern Michigan University College of Business.

The Michigan Women's Leadership Index, a yearly study presented by the Inforum Center for Leadership, concludes that Michigan companies have made progress, but could do a lot better.

First published in 2003, the index is a biennial survey that looks at female board members and senior executives at the 100 largest publicly held corporations headquartered in Michigan and breaks out additional data on Fortune 500 companies based in Michigan. As in 2009, the 2011 index was complied for the leadership center by the EMU's College of Business.

 Among the key trends for 2011 are:

  • 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.
  • 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 the 2003 level of 12 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.

"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, a professor of management at Eastern who served as lead researcher for the 2011 index. "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."

David Mielke, dean of the EMU College of Business, says that while the leadership index 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 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."

Says Terry Barclay, CEO of the center for leadership: "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. 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."

The full results of the index were detailed during an Oct. 17 luncheon at the Westin Hotel in Southfield.

Inforum is Michigan's leading business forum for women, with more than 1,800 members from a cross-section of Michigan's business community.  The mission of the organization is to strengthen the business environment by creating opportunities for women to lead and succeed. 

The Inforum Center for Leadership, the educational and research arm of Inforum, accelerates careers through unique leadership development programs that allow women to challenge themselves, take risks, and reach the next level. Inforum Center for Leadership also conducts and publishes research on women's leadership influence in Michigan.  For more information and copies of the index report, visit www.inforummichigan.org or call 877.633.3500.

Eastern Michigan University's College of Business is a cutting-edge and innovative organization that strives to equip today's students for tomorrow's global environment. The college was recently named "outstanding" for the eighth consecutive year in the Princeton Review's listing of the best 294 business schools in the nation.

Contact: Geoff Larcom

Phone: 734-487-4400; cell: 734-417-9658







Geoff Larcom



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