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Simmons Hosts National Conversation on Board Diversity

November 20, 2013

In an effort to boost gender diversity on corporate boards across the country, Simmons partnered with the national campaign 2020 Women on Boards to host a panel discussion on the issue November 12.

The event was one of 20 being held across the country to discuss how we can raise the percentage of women on U.S. corporate boards to 20 percent or greater by the year 2020. 2020 Women on Boards Founder Stephanie Sonnabend was in attendance and praised Simmons for being an early supporter of the campaign, which launched in 2010. She announced that, going forward, Simmons will house the 2020 Women on Boards Boston Chapter, coordinating all activities taking place in Massachusetts.

“Together we can make it happen,” she said. “We’re about education and advocacy.”

President Helen Drinan delivered welcoming remarks to the audience gathered in the Linda K. Paresky Conference Center, drawing from her recent Huffington Post blog on the absence of women from Twitter’s board of directors.

“How can a company possibly think that not having any women on its board could make sense?” she said. “There is absolutely no excuse for this.”

Drinan stressed the need for male allies when discussing gender inequality, and urged the audience to think politically about the companies they choose to support. On its website, 2020 Women on Boards lists the number of women on the boards of hundreds of well-known companies. Consumers can search this list and choose not to support businesses that have all-male boards.

Panelist Joe Keefe, President and CEP of Pax World Funds, also urged audience members with investments to cast their proxy votes and make their voices heard as shareholders.

“As investors we are asleep at the switch,” he said. “I believe that if we put our investment money to work we can make a difference.”

Keefe was joined for the panel discussion by moderator Cathy Minehan, Dean of the School of Management, and by Sue Vinnicombe, an expert on gender diversity on corporate boards and the Deloitte Ellen Gabriel Endowed Chair for Women and Leadership at the Simmons School of Management. Vinnicombe founded the International Centre for Women Leaders at Cranfield University in England, which publishes an annual report on the number of women directors on corporate boards in the United Kingdom.

“We need to change the culture,” Vinnicombe said. “It’s a business issue. It’s not a ‘nice to have,’ it’s a ‘need to have.’”

Tuesday’s event was part of SimmonsLEADS, a dynamic series of exciting speakers, programs, and events that focus on the empowerment and development of women leaders. The initiative aims to further the mission of the College's founder, John Simmons — to enable women to acquire independent livelihoods. All SimmonsLEADS events are non-profit fundraisers for graduate scholarships at Simmons College to help ensure the viability of women's education for generations to come.

Pictured above: Panelists Joe Keefe and Sue Vinnicombe with Moderator Cathy Minehan. Photo Credit: John Waite.