Boulder tops for female executives

How important are women to the local economy? A recent study of U.S. Census Bureau records by Austin, Texas-based Avalanche Consulting found that the Boulder metropolitan statistical area — essentially, Boulder County — topped the nation in concentration of female executives, with 17.7 female top executives for every 1,000 female workers in 2012.

Coming in at No. 2 was Bridgeport, Connecticut, with 16.6 female executives for every 1,000 female workers.

In regions such as Boulder and Bridgeport, “the proportion of female top executives is more than twice the U.S. average,” Avalanche research director John Rees said in a statement. “In both communities, there are more than 16 female top executives for every 1,000 female workers. In other metropolitan areas, fewer than two out of every 1,000 female workers (are) classified as a top executive.”

But, Rees noted, “Notably, not a single metropolitan area has a higher proportion of female top executives than the overall U.S. average for men.”

The Boulder area’s concentration of top female executives will come as no surprise to anyone who follows the region’s economy and business community.

The Avalanche study provides a perfect opportunity to reflect on some of the local women who continually inspire me with their experience, insight, entrepreneurship, management skill, business savvy and creativity:

• Josie Heath, president of the Community Foundation Serving Boulder County. Heath is a former Boulder County commissioner and past candidate for the U.S. Senate. What impresses me the most: Her understanding of the important role that philanthropy plays in the Boulder County economy.

• Susan Reilly, president and CEO of Renewable Energy Systems Americas Inc. in Broomfield. What impresses me the most: Her vocal and tireless advocacy for renewable energy, and willingness to battle onerous regulations and tax policies.

• Frances Draper, vice chancellor for strategic relations at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Draper, who formerly served as executive director of the Boulder Economic Council, coordinates external and internal communications at the university. What impresses me the most: Her organizational skills and ability to get the job done.

• Lynda Gibbons, CEO of Gibbons-White Inc., and Becky Gamble, CEO of Dean Callan & Co. What impresses me the most: Their business acumen and sales skills, as well as the fact that they’ve thrived in a traditionally male-dominated commercial real estate sector.

• Leslie Leinwand, chief scientific officer, the Biofrontiers Institute. What impresses me the most? OK, have you read any of the university’s reports on Leinwand’s discoveries? ‘Nuff said.

• Patricia Nelson Limerick, faculty director and chairwoman, Center for the American West at the University of Colorado. Limerick is a former MacArthur Fellow (and once my professor). What impresses me the most: Her ability to challenge orthodoxy by developing a new approach to the history of the West.

• Hunter Lovins, president of Natural Capitalism Solutions and co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute. What impresses me the most: Her vision for how business and environmental sustainability can be mutually beneficial.

These are just a few of the Boulder Valley women who inspire me, from business, education and nonprofits. Who inspires you?

Christopher Wood can be reached at 303-440-4950 or


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