ARCHIVED  August 1, 1998

10 to 1Men outnumber women by huge margin on boards of local public companies

Men outnumber women on the boards of locally based public companies by a margin of 69 to 7, according to research conducted by The Northern Colorado Business Report. Seven of the 12 companies studied have no women at all on their boards of directors.
Surveyed were Advanced Energy Industries Inc., Applied Computer Technology Inc., Applied Films Corp., Atrix Laboratories Inc., Avert Inc., Concepts Direct Inc., EFTC Corp., Factual Data Corp., Hach Co., Heska Corp., StarTek Inc. and Voice It Worldwide Inc.
One of the public companies that does include women on its board, Longmont-based Concepts Direct, elected that woman just this year. Factual Data in Loveland had one woman, Marcia Donnan, on its board until this spring, when she resigned.
Two companies, Voice It Worldwide and Hach Co., have two women on their boards of directors. Applied Computer Technology also had two women on its board until this year, when the company˜s vice president for sales and marketing resigned.
Why so few women?
The uneven distribution of top-level corporate decision-making power between the sexes seems to have come about from a combination of factors.
The region˜s heavy preponderance of young companies and biotechnology companies may be partly responsible for the circumstance.
"What (directors) can bring to a company is a whole heck of a lot more important (than gender)," said H. Franklin Marcus, chief financial officer of Concepts Direct. "Smaller public companies can˜t afford a large number of directors. They˜re much more in need of specific industrial experience."
Marcus has been involved in a variety of capacities with public companies since 1984. Concepts Direct, a direct-mail and catalog company that recently moved from Longmont proper into Weld County, just elected Virginia Bayless of Denver˜s Bayless and Associates to its board.
"We˜re sure she˜ bring us some good action," Marcus said. "Small companies need action."
The many-years-long product-development phase that biotech companies face makes fund-raising particularly difficult for them. In their urgency to bring financial sustenance to the company, sitting board members may not make a gender-balanced board a priority.
Lynnor Stevenson, a founder and director of the young biotech company Heska Corp., offered Heska as an example. 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.
"Some of the other women on biotech boards are representatives of the investors," Stevenson added.
As companies mature, so should the composition of their boards, some executives think.
"For a startup company, you˜ve got to find the very best person, regardless of gender," Stevenson said. "As companies mature, they should be deliberately looking for balance. In the high-tech industries, they˜ve gotten into this mind-set that there˜s only one way to do things, and it˜s not true. Other approaches are valid."
At Applied Films, Chairman Cecil Van Alsburg agreed that while it hasn˜t been a priority to find a woman for the board, it might become a priority as the company grows.
Many corporate executives complain that it is difficult to find women with the right qualifications. In some industries, they say, there are still few women operating at the highest levels.
"We would be happy if we could find a woman," Advanced Energy˜s Dick Beck said. "(For our board of directors) specific industry knowledge is fairly critical. We haven˜t been able to find anybody (female). If you have one who is knowledgeable in the thin-film industry, we˜d be happy to see a resume."
Van Alsburg concurred.
"I˜m afraid as long as men occupy as much of top management as they do in the industry, it will be difficult to find qualified women," he said. The same reasoning applies in other industries, too.
"In the direct mail industry, even though the great majority of buyers are women, the expertise is in the male population," Concepts Direct˜s Marcus said.
It may be that the available qualified women are stretched too thin to take the board seats offered to them.
"We˜ve offered board seats on two occasions to women who were not able to accept them," said John Urheim, CEO of Atrix Laboratories.
Some women contest such scarcity claims. Because recruiting for directors is often done by the buddy system, women who stand on the fringes of, or outside, the friendship circles of existing board members may be overlooked in director searches, said Debra A. Benton, president of Benton Management Resources.
"You have to look a little harder than asking your buddies," Benton said. She said she was preparing to attend an international conference of women in technology.
"There will be 4,000 women attending," she said. On panels, Benton said, will be 15 female CEOs of high-technology companies. Such a conference might be a good place to begin recruiting.
Benton herself has no problem finding sophisticated business women for her own advisory board. "I probably have 100 advisers who make up my informal board of advisors (for Benton Management Resources). Easily 50 percent are women," she said.
But Benton also thinks recruiters and high-level female executives share the blame for the dearth of women at the top. Business women should get their names and abilities known through head hunters and the buddy system, she said. And, she said, women often fail to quantify their accomplishments.
"Women don˜t like to toot their own horn," she said. "Often they haven˜t expressed interest or haven˜t let anyone know about their work."
Does it matter?
Marcus is not alone in believing gender to be irrelevant on a board of directors. At Avert Inc., where the chief financial officer is a woman, the skill set represented is the priority, and gender does not enter into such decisions, said investor-relations director Kelly Newburg.
Others offer a variety of reasons for wanting some gender balance on a board of directors.
Stevenson said she thinks women in general are more likely to set aside sheer competitiveness in decision-making and to keep the company˜s best interests in mind.
Urheim gives two reasons for wanting to have women on a board of directors:
"Half of the really qualified people in the world are women," he said. "Beyond that, there are issues on which a woman˜s perspective might be different from a man˜s."
Roadmaps to change are few, even among those who agree that change is called for. But Benton has a suggestion
"Most board positions are for a year or two years," she said. "Companies could go out on a limb and try (women) for a short period É "They might actually gain by it. They might get good press. If it˜s a board that doesn˜t see the value of that É they˜re just missing the boat."

Men outnumber women on the boards of locally based public companies by a margin of 69 to 7, according to research conducted by The Northern Colorado Business Report. Seven of the 12 companies studied have no women at all on their boards of directors.
Surveyed were Advanced Energy Industries Inc., Applied Computer Technology Inc., Applied Films Corp., Atrix Laboratories Inc., Avert Inc., Concepts Direct Inc., EFTC Corp., Factual Data Corp., Hach Co., Heska Corp., StarTek Inc. and Voice It Worldwide Inc.
One of the public companies that does include women on its board, Longmont-based Concepts Direct, elected that woman just…

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