As a business editor, I have a weakness for numbers. When pitched a story, I want to know how many employees you have, what your revenues are and how fast you’re growing. When reporting, I want to talk to your CEO. When inundated with information, we all take shortcuts, and those are some of mine.
Consequently, Seattle Business magazine’s coverage has tended to focus on midsize to large organizations and their CEOs. But since virtually all those companies are led by men, we have tended to feature far fewer women in the magazine. We have also underreported people who may not run large organizations but who, through their creativity or strength of personality, have played transformative roles in the region’s economy. Finally, we have not done enough to spotlight workplaces that remain inhospitable to women as well as to minorities. In that respect, the #MeToo movement has been an eye opener.
In local politics, the electorate is forcing change. With 38 female mayors elected last year across the state, women now rule in virtually every major city along I-5, including Everett, Bellingham, Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver. Marilyn Strickland, former mayor of Tacoma and now CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, says these women will make a difference because women — who often manage their children, care for parents and hold full-time jobs — know how to set priorities and get things done.
The Equal Pay Opportunity Act passed by our state Legislature, now 37 percent women, will become effective in June and should help start to address the travesty that women, on average, make about 22 percent less than men in this state.
Changing business leadership will be more difficult. Our region’s CEOs are overwhelmingly men, some argue, because its key industry sectors — aerospace, maritime and technology — are historically male dominated. But don’t forget: CEOs are chosen by male-dominated corporate boards of directors.
Two years ago, local business leaders established onBoarding Women to change that. The organization identifies and trains qualified women and recommends them to companies as potential board members. Its goal is to have corporate boards reach 30 percent women by 2020.
Progress is slow. Of the 25 largest public companies in Washington, women now represent 22.9 percent of board seats, up from 19.2 percent last year. Only five companies have met or exceeded the 30 percent target.
To support the effort, last year we started presenting a Governance Award as part of our Executive Excellence Awards program. Having significant female participation on boards of directors is a key selection criterion. We have also been doing more to highlight women business leaders. Our cover story this issue offers a blueprint for how to create a more inclusive workplace. And on May 10, we will put a spotlight on many of these issues at our Daring Women event.
I still want to know how big your company is and how fast you’re growing. But we will be more open to alternative story lines. Instead of merely reporting on the status quo, we want to be a positive force for change. Let us know when we fall short.