Effort Seeks to Boost Women on Florida Boards

Todays News

Graphic courtesy Florida Corporate Board Diversity Initiative.

Florida ranks lower than any other state when it comes to women on corporate boards. But a new initiative in the region aims to change that by connecting companies with qualified women and ensuring more female businesspeople have the right credentials to fill roles.

Lucie Lapovsky, the principal for Longboat Key-based Lapovsky Consulting, has worked with the University of Tampa to develop research on board make-up for companies on the Russell 3000 Index, which includes 117 Florida companies.

“I had been aware for many years that women are significantly under-represented on boards of major companies,” Lapovsky said. “I didn’t know we're bottom of the barrel.”

Less than 25% of board positions in Florida are filled by women, compared more than 28% of positions nationwide, the UT research shows. Just 7% of Florida companies have gender-balanced board, meaning at least 40% of the board make-up is female. By comparison about 11% of companies on the Russell 3000 Index meet the balance threshold.

The Florida Corporate Board Diversity Initiative aims to change the situation. Lapovsky said it wants to do so not only by spotlighting the problems but showcasing companies leading the way. The effort has publicly recognized companies in the state that have balanced boards, including Bradenton-based First Watch. 

But the initiative is also reaching out to companies with underrepresentation. Last year, 11 companies were identified that had no women on boards. One of those businesses, IRadimed Corporation, worked with the initiative and now has one women on its board.

The initiative has built a list of some 750 women already eligible to serve on corporate boards and works with businesses with low representation to connect them with suitable candidates. In some cases, Lapovsky said, companies have created new positions to immediately add that diversity rather than wait for a vacancy to open up.

“We are not looking for headlines calling out companies,” Lapovsky said. “Companies are in this situation for a variety of reasons. They may not have had much board turnover. But we are working quietly with them to improve.”

Lapovsky, who also chairs the Suncoast chapter of the International Women’s Forum, also constantly works with women in the business world who could become board-eligible, thereby increasing the number of candidates who can fill positions.

Graphic courtesy Florida Corporate Board Diversity Initiative.

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