Report on Gender Equity on Boards and Commissions

The Women’s Forum of North Carolina, Inc. (1996)

I. Introduction

The Women’s Forum of North Carolina, Inc. seeks to encourage, empower and promote the economic advancement of women through its activities. In 1996, the Forum identified the lack of representation of women on key powerful boards and commissions as a continuing problem, which we would address. To accomplish this goal, the Forum created a task force to:

  • identify the most powerful boards of state government, corporations and nonprofit foundations in North Carolina;
  • determine the gender balance of these boards; and
  • assure gender equity on these boards by identifying and nominating women.

This publication is the result of six months of research to identify these key influential boards, and to determine the percentage of female trustees currently serving on them. Recognizing that literally thousands of boards exist, the Forum selected boards in each sector based on criteria designed to target a manageable number of highly influential, “power” boards. The data in this report document the underrepresentation of women on the most powerful North Carolina boards.

The study also recognized those boards that have removed barriers to women, so that women now share in the policy-making process. The Women’s Forum hopes that other organizations will take similar steps, so that inequitable representation of women will no longer be an issue.

Kathy Baker Smith, President

Women’s Forum of North Carolina

That’s the Way It Was

Tibbie Roberts first became involved in banking in 1933 when all banks in Carteret County were closed. Her father made arrangements with Wachovia Bank in Raleigh to open a Wachovia Exchange in Morehead City. Ms. Roberts ran that operation until First Citizens Bank and Trust Company opened a branch in Morehead City, and she was hired immediately to work in that branch. In 1937, Ms. Roberts became assistant cashier, the first female bank officer in the county.

Because women in banking had no representation in the N.C. Bankers Association, in 1940 a request, later approved, was made for a women’s division. Tibbie Roberts became the first eastern regional director and the second N.C. president of the division. She was also the first woman invited to serve on the N.C. Bankers Association Board. However, when she told them she was pregnant with her second child, the invitation was withdrawn.

The final insult happened in 1945. When she resigned, her replacement was a male recent college graduate with no banking experience and who received a salary 39 percent higher than Ms. Roberts had been receiving.

Executive Summary

Women are becoming increasingly important candidates for board membership for North Carolina government agencies, foundations, and corporations. In North Carolina, women represent 52 percent of the population, 47 percent of the workforce, the majority of current college graduates, and a majority of consumers. Once these women arrive in the boardroom, however, they often find that they have joined an all-male club.

Just how male-dominated are the boards of directors of the most powerful and influential government agencies, foundations and corporations in North Carolina? How does this state compare to the rest of the nation on gender diversity on boards? Are any boards balanced and deserving of recognition? Here is what the research found.

State Government Boards in North Carolina

  1. Governor Jim Hunt can be commended for appointing a large number of women to boards and commissions in the executive branch of government. Between January 1993 and May 1996, he appointed 840 women to 400 boards and commissions, an impressive number.
  2. This study focused on some of the most powerful state government boards and commissions whose decisions have a significant impact on our lives. These 11 influential boards set priorities, allocate resources, and regulate key public and private services. As can be seen from the chart below, these “power boards” are often male-dominated.
State Government Agencies %Women on Board of Directors
Social Services Commission 42
Parole Commission 40
State Board of Education 31
State Board of Community Colleges 30
Utilities Commission 29
Economic Development Board 19
State Board of Transportation 19
UNC Board of Governors 16
Governor’s Crime Commission 15
Environmental Management Commission 12
State Banking Commission 6

Foundations in North Carolina

  1. Sixteen North Carolina foundations were selected by the Women’s Forum for study. All have large assets and growth potential, but many lack gender balance on their boards of directors.
  2. One foundation deserves special recognition for gender diversity on its boards: the Bank of America Foundation.
  3. According to the Council of Foundations, women make up only 30 percent of the trustees of the large foundations in the United States. Twelve of the 16 foundations in this study failed to meet the national average. A complete list of the surveyed foundations is as follows:
Foundation % Women on Board of Directors
Bank of America Foundation 62
Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation 36
Foundation for the Carolinas 33
Triangle Community Foundation 33
A. J. Fletcher Foundation 27
The Duke Endowment 27
Burroughs-Wellcome Fund 25
Winston-Salem Foundation 23
Cannon Foundation 22
Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust 20
Glaxo-Wellcome Foundation 18
Duke Power Company Foundation 14
Smith Richardson Foundation 14
First Union Foundation 11
Janirve Foundation 0
Wachovia Foundation 0

Corporations in North Carolina

  1. According to Catalyst in 1997, women made up only 10 percent of the members of Fortune 500 corporate boards nationally, and they represent an even smaller share of the trustees of North Carolina boards. Of 11 publicly traded companies surveyed in this study, only two match or exceed the national figure: Lowe’s Companies and Food Lion.
  2. Five of the 11 publicly traded companies surveyed have female representation of only one to eight percent: CP&L, First Union, Harris Teeter, Wachovia and Duke Energy.
  3. Four of the 11 publicly traded companies surveyed have no female trustees currently serving on their boards: R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Burlington Industries, Family Dollar Stores, and Jefferson-Pilot. All publicly traded companies are listed below:
Publicly Traded Companies % Women on Board of Directors
Lowe’s Companies 17
Food Lion 10
CP&L 8
First Union 8
Harris Teeter 8
Wachovia 6
Duke Energy 6
R. J. Reynolds 0
Burlington Industries 0
Family Dollar Stores 0
Jefferson-Pilot 0

Three nonprofit companies do somewhat better than the publicly traded companies in balancing their boards:

Nonprofit Companies % Women on Board of Directors
Blue Cross/Blue Shield 33
North Carolina Baptist Hospitals 17
North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry 11

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