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March 2017

How Much are Silicon Valley Boards Improving Gender Diversity?

By | Board Savvy, Building the Modern Boardroom | No Comments

Findings from the Fenwick & West Gender Diversity 2016 Proxy Season Survey, which looks at women’s positions on boards based on SEC data since 1996, point to a few promising trends and areas where Silicon Valley’s top public firms surpass the S&P 100 in their inclusion.

2016 continued a long-term trend in the SV 150 (top 150 public companies in Silicon Valley) of increasing the number of women directors. Since their 2014 survey, the average percentage of women directors increased 4 percentage points in the SV 150 to 14% and in the S&P 100 rose just 2 percentage points to 23% (with the top 15 companies in the SV 150 increasing 6.5 percentage points to 22%). However, 25% of SV 150 still have NO women on their board.

Women Directors - 2016 Proxy Season DistributionKey excerpts from the 2016 Fenwick Survey:

Why so few women directors on SV company boards?

In addition to their focus on CEO experience and their own networks that plague many nominating committees when searching for new board members,  additional factors that contribute to the lack of women on the boards of technology and life sciences companies in the SV 150 appear to be that:

  • SV firms’ average board size is smaller than S&P 500;
  • VCs hold many of the seats on SV firms, as they hold sizable shares of the companies’ stock, and women make up a small percentage of such investors.How do women directors fare in leadership positions on SV company boards?

How do women directors fare in leadership positions on SV company boards?

The frequency with which women are included in leadership positions on the board is useful as an important indicator of whether they are being viewed as equal partners with their male peers. While the numbers of women remain relatively small, the SV 150 and the Top 15 SV have surpassed the S&P 100 in this measure.

In recent years, the top 15 largest companies in the SV 150 have surpassed the S&P 100 in percentage of women in board leadership positions, including board chairs, lead directors and committee chairs.

What’s more, when measured in terms of likelihood of being in a board leadership position among women who serve as board members, the top 15 of the SV 150 and the SV 150 overall have been significantly more likely to include women in board leadership positions than the S&P 100.  

Women board chairs are rare at public companies around the world. That is also true for the SV 150 (4.2%) and the S&P 100 (6.0%), although the Top 15 SV companies had more women in this position (13.3%). A major reason for this low number is that many CEOs also serve as chair of their board, and there are few women CEOs.

S&P 100 companies tended to have more women as a percentage of the total number of audit committee members, but the increase in women has been much greater for SV firms during the past 21 years (S&P 100 moving from 14.9% in 1996 to 24.8% in 2016; SV 150 moving from only 1.3% in 1996 to 17.9% in 2016.  The SV 15 has the highest number of women with 29.1% last year.  

Women Directors on Audit Committees

Women Directors on Audit Committees 

For more detailed information about other committees and executive management, download their executive summary or their full report.

The Athena Alliance works closely with SV firms to expand their networks to women qualified to serve on their boards. We are here to help. Just ask us how we can introduce you to the talent you need.

Finding Your Unique Selling Proposition

By | Executive Development | No Comments

Gary Purece is one of several executive advisors for Athena members.  He is a communications advisor who assists executives in clearly articulating their corporate and personal brand message.  Athena Alliance members receive two hours of coaching with Gary to start the process of writing their own board bio for future placement.

Gary penned this advice on how to identify your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)a term which is interchangeable with “value proposition” or “brand statement.”

Think advertising… 

Advertising works only when the words differentiate the product from similar products. BMW differentiates itself with “the Ultimate Driving Machine” (the word car is not even mentioned); GE states “We make things that very few in the world can, but that everyone needs.” These slogans depict a unique selling proposition to help these two companies stand out for those in the market for similar goods and services.

The Unique Selling Proposition contains words that, when clearly stated, explain how you solve problems or help make the company relevant, meet specific needs, and explain to the listener why they should choose you. The USP establishes the unique differentiation between you and the competition.

As an example, I chose the following USP; “Coaching that helps executives communicate with confidence and authority.” In one sentence, I describe my audience (executives), what I do (verbal communication coaching), and the impact (communicate with confidence and authority).

Today, the differentiator statement is not just a necessity, it is a requirement.

As you continue to review your brand statement (it is a work-in-process statement) the following questions will help you refine and update your USP.

  • What is unique about the way I think?
  • What makes me distinctive as a leader?
  • What impact do others expect from me?
  • What impact do others receive from me?
  • What types of solutions do I consistently deliver?
  • What is my legacy/what do I want my legacy to be?

Competition for board seats can be fierce. In order to earn a spot, you must present your unique value to the reader and listener. This is your USP.

Thanks to Gary’s 1:1 coaching on this process, Athena members can clearly define their value in their bios, their LinkedIn profiles and their elevator pitches so that board members seeking directors can more easily see the reasons to consider them.