Colorado is behind many other states in the number of women on corporate boards, and the U.S. as a whole has a long way to go to have the number of women on boards reflect the general population. But instead of frustration, a few experts on diversity in leadership are choosing to have an optimistic outlook about the opportunities for women. Numbers have doubled from barely a decade ago, so they’re looking at right now as a ripe moment for women to make opportunities to serve on boards.
“I think we just need to help women be more visible,” said Stefanie Johnson, an associate professor of management at the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business. She studies how unconscious bias affects the evaluation of leaders and strategies for mitigating bias. “There’s a reason to say, ‘Women, the time is now.’”
Johnson and other speakers plan to send that message at a Feb. 6 Association of Corporate Counsel event called “Women on Boards: Elevating Our Presence.”
According to data from Spencer Stuart’s 2019 Board Index report, women made up 46% of board members at S&P 500 companies last year. That’s up from 30% in 2014 and 17% in 2009. While it’s not possible to pinpoint definitive causes of the increases, Johnson said recent upswells in movements such as the Women’s March and the #MeToo movement have brought visibility to biases women face in the professional realm and helped erase lingering skepticism that they still exist.
“If I asked someone today if there’s gender bias in the workplace, you’d have to be pretty bold to say, ‘I don’t think so,’” Johnson said. “When you look at the statistics of how many women experience sexual harassment alone, how can you possibly imagine that men and women are treated equally?”