10 to 1. That was the headline of an August 1998 story in the Northern Colorado Business Report, one of the forerunners to BizWest. The subject was the dominance of men on boards of directors of locally based public companies, which back then encompassed Larimer and Weld counties.
“Men outnumber women on the boards of locally based public companies by a margin of 69 to 7,” reporter Maggie Boys wrote. “Seven of the 12 companies studied have no women at all on their boards of directors.”
Almost 18 years later, BizWest performed a similar study, examining 27 companies either based in — or with ties to — the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado, including Boulder, Broomfield, Larimer and Weld counties. The result? Men continue to dominate public-company board seats, at more than an 8-to-1 ratio.
Twelve companies have no women whatsoever on their boards, according to the most recent proxy statements on file with the Securities and Exchange Commission. 2020 Women on Boards, a national group that tracks Fortune 1000 companies and seeks to increase the percentage of women on boards to at least 20 percent by 2020, calls such companies “Z companies.” The “Z” stands for zero.
BizWest looked beyond the Fortune 1000, examining all public companies based in the region, including a couple of companies that have been acquired since filing their last proxy statements, and including a couple of companies formerly based in the region but still with a large local presence.
(Find the “Zero companies” — as well as those doing better — on page 10 of this edition.)
There are some bright spots. Loveland-based Heska Corp., which had zero female board members in 1998, now tops the list, at 50 percent women. Zayo Group Holdings Inc. of Boulder and Gaiam Inc. of Louisville both stand strong at 37.5 percent women. WhiteWave Foods Co., based in Denver but with hundreds of Broomfield employees, stands at 28.6 percent women. And Vail Resorts Inc., based in Broomfield, has a solid 25 percent women.
Officials at public companies point to many reasons for the disparity, including the lack of women in certain industries. But Heska’s chief operating officer, Jason Napolitano, said this to reporter Paula Aven Gladych: “You don’t have to have someone on the board with industry experience. Sometimes it is useful to have someone from outside the industry who doesn’t have lessons to unlearn about that industry’s lore. They bring a fresh perspective.”
The company has come a long way from August 1998, when Lynnor Stevenson, a founder and director of the then-young Heska Corp., said the Heska board was originally composed of founders, who had technical expertise.
“And then we got an investment,” Stevenson said. “They put someone on (the board) who was a man. Then we got another investment, and they put someone on who was a man. Then we merged with another company, and their representative was a man.”
But Heska took the leap. Perhaps other public companies could learn from their example.
Christopher Wood can be reached at 303-630-1942, 970-232-3133 or via email at email@example.com.