The report

Executive Summary

The 2010 Minnesota Census of Women in Corporate Leadership presents a tale of stalled progress and missed opportunities. Only eight of Minnesota’s top 100 publicly held companies experienced a net gain in women corporate directors in 2010. Four companies experienced a net loss. Of the 72 new board seats that became available in 2010, only 14 seats were awarded to women.

Lack of racial diversity is also an issue. Only 1.7 percent of the people who serve on Minnesota boards are women of color. One Minnesota company — Granite City Food & Brewery, Ltd. — added six board seats in 2010 and appointed six white men to fill them.

Diversifying a corporate leadership team provides a competitive advantage. A handful of Minnesota’s Fortune® 500 companies are appointing highly qualified women of color to their boards. Others must follow their lead.

As in the two earlier versions of the Census, the 2010 Honor Roll is comprised of companies in which women make up at least 20 percent of the board and at least 20 percent of executive officers. “Special Distinction” is reserved for those companies in which women make up at least 30 percent of the board and at least 30 percent of executive officers.

This year’s Honor Roll refl ects the tenuous progress companies have made toward diversifying their corporate boards and executive offices. In several cases, the departure of one or two women removes companies from Honor Roll recognition because they lack the critical mass to maintain a diverse leadership team. Consider:

  • SUPERVALU, INC. departed the Honor Roll after losing one woman director.
  • UnitedHealth Group, Inc. left the Honor Roll after it added two executive officers to its senior leadership ranks, both men.
  • Famous Dave’s of America, Inc. added one board seat, filled by a man, which took it off the Honor Roll.
  • Select Comfort Corp. lost one woman director, which knocked it off the Honor Roll.

The movement of these companies off the Honor Roll underscores why Minnesota corporations must attain critical mass in their leadership ranks for progress to occur. One woman director and/or one woman executive is not enough.

Graph Percent National

For printable graphs, download the report (PDF).

Research on women in leadership

A recent global survey by McKinsey & Company (2010) reveals that 72 percent of male and female executives believes gender diversity in corporate leadership leads to improved financial performance. Yet translating belief into practice continues to elude many companies, including the majority of Minnesota’s top 100 publicly held companies.

A body of widely recognized research links competitive advantage with boards that embrace diversity of gender, ethnicity and skill set (Deloitte, 2010; Ernst and Young, 2009; CalPERS, 2009; Catalyst, 2007). The presence of a critical mass of women in leadership improves the corporate bottom line in terms of both financial profits and effective decision-making.

A “critical mass,” according to Wellesley Centers for Women (2006), consists of three or more women — the number at which women directors and senior executives are perceived as individuals with unique skill sets and voices as opposed to representatives of their gender. The presence of three or more women also shifts the dynamics of how boards operate, research shows.

In 2010, only six Minnesota Census companies had three or more women directors. This is a decline from the nine companies with three or more women directors in The 2009 Minnesota Census.

Despite an increasing number of highly qualified women in the leadership pipeline (48 percent of the labor force and 51 percent of all management/professional positions, according to the White House Project, 2010), women’s progress beyond middle management has stalled.

Only in rare instances do we find three women on the board or in the senior executive offices of Minnesota’s top companies. Women CEOs lead only six of the 100 companies in The 2010 Minnesota Census.

Engaging the talents, creativity and expertise of all highly qualified individuals — men and women working in partnership — will provide Minnesota with the strongest human capital upon which to build a resilient economic future.

Download the full report (PDF)