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Study: Women Are Unrepresented In Leadership At The Top Mass. Companies

Only one of the state's largest companies has reached gender parity in its leadership positions — and only one has a female CEO — according to a new study by the Eos Foundation.

The report, released Thursday, examined leadership across the 25 largest public companies based in Massachusetts and ranked them based on the representation of women. It finds that while women make up more than half of the state's population and people of color make up 30%, they are hardly represented at the executive level of the state's biggest companies.

"The companies that we surveyed employ a million people and are worth $900 billion. So, if we start with those 25 that goes a long way to making this state hopefully one of the first to lead on diversity and inclusion," Eos Foundation president Andrea Silbert said.

Eighty percent of the companies were marked as "unsatisfactory" or in need of "urgent attention" to achieve gender parity in the report.

Child care provider Bright Horizons ranks at the top of the list and is the only company that has reached gender parity across all leadership levels, according to the report. Insulet, a medical device company in Acton, ranks second and is the only company with a female CEO.

The study finds more than half of the companies do not have a single woman among their highest paid executives. Eighty percent of the companies were marked as "unsatisfactory" or in need of "urgent attention" to achieve gender parity in the report.

But Silbert points to some bright spots: Women now make up 31% of corporate boards. And 25% of executive leadership teams are women.

"The executive leadership team is where the next CEO comes from typically," Silbert said. "What that tells us is if 25% of the executive leadership teams are women we should be seeing  a much highest percent in the CEO's office."

Silbert said the numbers show there is a pipeline, so she's focused on breaking down unconscious bias so "when it comes time to select your next CEO or your next CFO, women and people of color are considered for that position without bias."

But women of color face a bigger uphill battle — they make up just 3% of executive leadership positions at the state's top companies and 6% of corporate board seats, according to the report.

The report recommends companies provide unconscious bias training, examine their policies and practices, set diversity goals and focus on equity.

Studies have found that organizations with diverse leadership perform better, make better decisions and are more profitable.

The Eos Foundation report is part of the nonprofit's "Women's Power Gap" initiative, which aims to increase the number of women leaders in the state. Previous studies by the organization have found similar leadership disparities among the state's colleges and influential business groups.

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Zeninjor Enwemeka Twitter Reporter
Zeninjor Enwemeka is a reporter who covers business, tech and culture as part of WBUR's Bostonomix team, which focuses on the innovation economy.

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