Here are the only 12 women sitting on boards at Charlotte’s biggest companies

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There are staggeringly low numbers of women in positions of leadership on corporate boards in the United States.

According to 2020 Women on Boards, women hold 18.8% of board seats in Fortune 1000 companies nationwide. That’s up from 14.6% when reporting began in 2011.

Comparatively, 35.5% of board seats in Norway, 29.9% in Finland and 29.7% in France were held by women in 2014.

Here at home, North Carolina trails behind the national average with women representing just 16.7% of board members at the state’s Fortune 1000 companies.

2020 Women on Boards is a national grassroots movement to increase gender diversity in corporate leadership.

The tangible goal is to have 20% of the board seats at Fortune 1000 companies filled by women by 2020.

“The conversation needs to take place,” says 2020 Women on Boards Charlotte Chair Jennifer Winstel. “Why aren’t more women represented when we’re half the workforce?”

It’s a simple question with a complex answer that 2020 Women on Boards works to address at its annual National Conversation on Board Diversity, which will take place in cities across the country on November 17 this year.

Winstel says the event is about awareness, advocacy and creating a conversation about what we can do to create a shift in gender diversity in corporate leadership.

But are events like this enough to also bridge the gap for women of color who remain severely underrepresented in the already underrepresented minority of women on boards?

Jewell Hoover, Secretary/Treasurer on the AARP Board of Directors and 2020 Women on Boards panelist, says yes, this event is moving the needle.

“A lot of forums have made a lot of progress in adding diversity to boards,” she said. “It not only engages women of color but it engages women of all races.”

Still, a 2014 update from the Center for American Progress reported that women of color held only 3.2% of board seats at Fortune 500 companies. And more than two thirds of Fortune 500 boards had no women of color represented at all in 2014.

Jewell Hoover via AARP

Jewell Hoover via AARP

So how can women ready themselves for a corporate board position where their presence may be a first?

Hoover stresses the importance for all women to make themselves seen. “You can be the smartest person in the world but who knows about you?” she asked. “It’s about networking, understanding what skills you have and putting yourself in a position where if a company is looking for a board director that they can find you. That’s the sweet spot.”

And that, she says, is a journey. “Sitting on a corporate board is very difficult and that’s not going to be your first board opportunity,” she said. Instead, she suggests focusing on positions on nonprofit boards, commissions and other community organizations to gain the skills necessary to move up the ladder. 

If you start out at that level that’s where you learn corporate governance, negotiating skills in the boardroom and how to navigate the kinds of discussions that take place,” Hoover said. “It’s a microcosm of what will prepare you for a larger board.”

But doing everything right won’t guarantee anyone—male, female or otherwise—a highly coveted and competitive seat on a corporate board. Who you know and, more importantly, who’s willing to speak up for and sponsor you is critical. For women in a still overwhelmingly male-dominated arena, that can be a challenge.

That’s part of why we’re starting to see a bigger push for corporate gender diversity at a government level.

Here in North Carolina, Winstel is working on a bi-partisan resolution that would encourage companies in the state to adopt practices and policies that embrace broader gender diversity. That resolution, sponsored by senator Jeff Jackson (D) and supported by senator Jeff Tarte (R), is pending in the state House and she hopes to take it to the floor in January.

“It would be a really big deal to get North Carolina passed,” Winstel said, “for us to be thought of as a progressive state.”

At a more micro level, she highlights the importance of preparing the next generation of female leaders who are already beginning their careers in these companies.

“I think mentorship’s important,” said Winstel. “We have a responsibility to help grow that younger generation below us, to help bring them up in these companies. We have to keep them engaged.”

For a closer look at the leadership landscape in Charlotte, here are the 12 women with board seats at the city’s six Fortune 500 companies.

Out of 64 board seats at these six companies, women hold 18.75%, reflecting the national average. Note, however, the glaring lack of women of color represented.

Bank of America

Fortune 500 rank: 26
Total board members: 14
Women: 4
Women of color: 1

Sharon L. Allen

Susan S. Bies

Linda P. Hudson

Monica C. Lozano

Linda Hudson via LinkedIn

Linda Hudson via LinkedIn

Lowe’s

Fortune 500 rank: 47
Total: 11
Women: 3
Women of color: 0

Angela F. Braly

Sandra B. Cochran

Laurie Z. Douglas

Angela Braly via LinkedIn

Angela Braly via LinkedIn

Duke Energy

Fortune 500 rank: 115
Total: 13
Women: 3
Women of color: 0

Lynn J. Good

Ann Maynard Gray

E. Marie McKee

Lynn Good via LinkedIn

Lynn Good via LinkedIn

Nucor

Fortune 500 rank: 170
Total: 8
Women: 1
Women of color: 0

Victoria F. Haynes

Sonic Automotive

Fortune 500 rank: 297
Total: 8
Women: 0
Women of color: 0

Sealed Air

Fortune 500 rank: 375
Total: 10
Women: 1
Women of color: 0

Jacqueline B. Kosecoff

Jacqueline Kosecoff via LinkedIn

Jacqueline Kosecoff via LinkedIn

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Katie Levans Loveluck
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