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12/12/12 launches a grassroots campaign for boardroom diversity

Posted by Chad O'Connor  December 10, 2012 11:00 AM

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According to The Boston Club’s annual Census of Women Directors and Executive Officers of Massachusetts Public Companies, the number of women represented in the boardroom and executive suites has improved, but there is much progress to be made. 2012 statistics show 12.7% of all directors of the 100 largest public companies in Massachusetts are women - a 1.6% increase from 2011. The Boston Club collaborated with Bentley University and Mercer on the survey, and this year is the survey’s 10th year anniversary.

Ellen Keiley
A great amount of research, time, and effort has been put into raising the numbers of women that serve on corporate boards and in executive level positions, and much of the focus has been at the top level down. 2020 Women on Boards has taken a different approach and created a grassroots’ campaign to engage those passionate about the issue at all career levels.

2020 Women on Boards is a national campaign focused on increasing the percentage of women on U.S. company boards to 20% or greater by the year 2020. The 2020 initiative started in 2010 after two women, 2020’s Executive Director, Malli Gero, a public relations consultant whom has worked on women’s leadership issues for over a decade, and Stephanie Sonnabend, 2020’s President and President of Sonesta International Hotels Corporation, were frustrated with the slow progress being made in increasing the numbers of women who serve on corporate boards.

2020 Women on Boards is focused on educating the general public on the importance of board diversity, encourages them to let their voices be heard, and is focused on getting stakeholders from consumers to the boardroom involved. Gero said “We chose a grass roots approach because we have seen it work on the green movement and in political campaigns – why not do a grassroots campaign for this issue.”

“2020 wanted to start real conversations about board diversity and why it is important, so they planned the 12/12/12 event, a national event taking place simultaneously in 21 cities across the U.S. on December 12, 2012 at 11:45 a.m. EST,” said Gero. 12/12/12 will kick off with a tweet-a-thon at 11:30 a.m. Tweeters will be encouraged to tweet about what is going on at their location, and those not at an event can follow activity through 2020’s Twitter page.

All luncheons will be slightly different, but there will be some consistency. All will start with the debut of the 2020 video, which makes the case for board diversity. Many locations will have keynote speakers, and some will have roundtables.

Currently there are three active 2020 chapters located in Boston, New York, and New Orleans. “Many more will form in cities that are hosting 12/12/12 luncheons, and that is very exciting. 2020 really gives people the ability to take action if they care about advancing women. The 12/12/12 event has created a lot of buzz on an international basis. People hearing about it want to join the campaign and be a part of the conversation,” said Gero.

Those that want to get involved in the 2020 Campaign can do so by visiting “10 Things You Can Do” on 2020’s website. Some options include attending a 12/12/12 event, registering your support at no charge but donations are welcome, “liking” 2020’s Facebook page, and following the event on Twitter. Gero said “If you are traveling on December 12, attend an event in another city – it is a great way to meet new people and build your network.”

Toni Wolfman, Executive Advisor at the Center for Women and Business at Bentley University and Vice President and Director at the Thirty Percent Coalition, said “2020’s approach is complimentary to existing initiatives, as it is addressing the issue from the bottom up. All the women’s organizations have been advocating, connecting, and enlisting support, but the needle hasn’t moved. We have to admit no significant progress has been made and need to figure out ways to work together and all be on the same page.”

The Boston Club has a Corporate Board Program, which places women on corporate and nonprofit boards and focuses on identifying and developing a pool of female talent that organizations can call upon to fill board vacancies.

We need to continue to bring women together in organizations such as 2020, the InterOrganizationNetwork (ION), The Thirty Percent Coalition, and The Boston Club, create more awareness of the business case, and gain more support at the highest levels of corporations to continue to make progress. Hopefully in the near future, the numbers of men and women on boards will be comparable, and this will be an issue of the past.

Ellen Keiley is President of the MBA Women International Boston Chapter Board of Directors, is a member of the City Year and United Way’s Women’s Leadership Initiatives and is a Boston World Partnerships Connector. She can be contacted at ellenmkeiley@gmail.com

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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