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California Passes Resolution to Ignite Gender Diversity Discussions

By Sarah Meyerrose, ION President

This week the California State Senate passed Senator Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 62 calling for publicly-held companies with boards of nine or more to fill at least three of those seats with women, for boards of five to eight with at least two women, and for smaller boards with at least one woman. With no mandated quotas, SCR 62 is designed to ignite discussions and urge companies to take action over the next three years.

Many people are surprised to learn that in a state as diverse and forward-thinking as California, women hold fewer than one in ten of the highest-paid executive positions and board seats at the top public firms – a figure that hasn’t changed much in eight years. The resolution’s author, Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, said that as the seventh largest economy in the world, California can use this resolution as an opportunity to “clear gender bias in corporate America” and that the next step is to “take the discussion out of academia and into the public policy arena.”

When asked how to get corporations to move forward with more gender-diverse initiatives – both in the boardroom and elsewhere — Jackson said that we have to show them the bottom line. If a company sees increased profits and improved productivity, they might be convinced that this isn’t a boys’ club anymore. And shareholders must put pressure on the board.  

ION couldn’t agree more. If you do too, here are online resources to learn how individual investors, mutual fund investors and consumers  can make a difference by taking action.

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Jumpstarting Board Diversity in Corporate America

by ION Secretary Jilaine Hummel Bauer

I recently represented ION at the Third Annual Johns Hopkins SAIS Global Conference on Women in the BoardroomParticipants from around the world presented updates on progress being made to increase the number of women on boards across geographies, shared what is and isn’t working, and identified possible strategies to jumpstart progress in the U.S. – which, quite candidly, has been underwhelming.

While I learned something from everyone, the most insight came from the United Kingdom and Australia, given the similarities in our corporate cultures and laws. Notably, both countries have made significant progress within the past couple years and it has not been through the use of quota mandates.

The first day was a closed roundtable discussion attended by CEOs, business organization executives, institutional investors, academics, governmental agencies and organizations like ION. The roundtable was followed by a dinner hosted by Ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronde from Finland, the first country to mention board gender in its corporate governance code. The second day was open to the public and began with remarks by SEC Commissioner Elisse Walter, followed by a series of panel discussions. (View video.)  Here are three key takeaways:

  1. Possibilities. Despite the lack of significant progress, a critical mass of women in U.S. corporate boardrooms is both possible and feasible. According to The Conference Board, using an average attrition rate of approximately 10% within S&P 500 Companies from 2003 – 2010, if 50% of board vacancies created solely by attrition were filled with women beginning this year, without doing anything to board size, tenure or age – U.S. companies could have 30% women on their boards by 2016.
  2. Business Imperative. Two new studies by the Committee for Economic Development and the American Chamber of Commerce found that gender balance on corporate boards is imperative if the U.S. wants to remain competitive. We cannot continue to ignore half of our labor pool. Other countries in both emerging and developed markets have already figured this out. These studies by two important business organizations should help Corporate America think more seriously about making gender diversity part of the solution to business problems and challenges.
  3. Strategies and Tactics. The narrative that continued to build throughout the conference was that there is no single solution. Success is most often tied to a systemic event or energy source, together with a flexible and multi-prong approach.  Ideas worth further examination include:
  • Identifying and working with CEOs and board chairs who are agents for change, such as those represented by the 30% Club (UK), Male Champions of Change (AU) and the Global Alliance of Corporate Leaders (Europe)
  • Using corporate governance codes such as the Davies Report (UK) as vehicles of change
  • Revising listing standards to require publicly traded companies to be  more explicit about their board diversity policies
  • Working to inform and educate the SEC and other federal agencies about gender diversity standards and practices as they implement Section 342 of Dodd Frank, which authorizes examining diversity practices of the business organizations they regulate

Health Care Services vs. e-Discovery

by SFL Data CEO Christian Lawrence

Have you ever been really sick? Or known someone really sick? It’s complicated and it doesn’t always end positively. There are ups and downs along the way – little victories, defeats, signs of both warning and hope. Typically it works better when patient, patient’s family, doctor, and hospital team work in partnership. Consulting each other regularly, setting plans and goals together, sharing information openly, and reacting to specific events quickly and decisively. Personally, I’ve seen wins and losses. My mother has survived colon cancer – I will be eternally grateful to her carers. Sadly, my father didn’t and passed away. Same hospital both times, same medical team tending to both. I don’t harbor a grudge. I didn’t freak out on the oncologist who presented the final “there is no hope” news. We were partners. They did an outstanding job; their team and research were best in class. This stuff is complicated. So is e-discovery. Only e-discovery hasn’t woken up yet to the need for partnership. Why not? Because of procurement teams inside corporations who don’t get it. Because of corporation’s litigation teams who lose their nerve when things don’t go perfectly and have to play the CYA game. Because litigation attorneys in law firms tend to be reactive rather than to understand and course-correct. Partnership in e-discovery will lead to great innovation, process building, learning, better solutions, and better outcomes. Corporations and law firms can be self-serving by pushing the partnership agenda, not combating it.

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Increasing Boardroom Gender Diversity in 2012

by ION President Charlotte Laurent-Ottomane

The energy of a new year often lingers through January, especially when we reflect on how far we’ve come and the opportunities that await us. ION’s eighth annual status report of women directors and executive officers of public companies in 14 U.S. regions, titled “Gender Imbalance in the Boardroom: Opportunities to Change Course,” summarizes this nicely. Published last month, the report recalls ION’s new organizational friendships, a fresh proxy toolkit and much more. You can download the full-color PDF or request printed copies to hand out at your organization’s next event.

For the first time, the release of ION’s report coincided with Catalyst’s release of their annual census on the number of women on Fortune 500 boards. This helped us get national attention in publications such as Forbes. Look for ION to form more mutually beneficial relationships in 2012 with like-minded organizations.

With a reach that exceeds more than 10,000 women nationwide, ION is prepared to raise the bar when it comes to advocating for gender diversity in the boardroom and executive suites. Can we count on your support? The ION website’s Events page is an excellent place to start. Check out “Unlocking a Source of Growth: Women in the Boardroom” at the end of January in Sacramento, Calif. and “Executive Presence: Being Perceived as a Leader” in Atlanta in February. In April, there’s “Roadmap to the Boardroom” in Baltimore and The Conference Board’s “2012 Women’s Leadership Conference” in New York. Most of these events are open to both ION members and non-members alike interested in learning more about what gender diversity means for their industry, organization and career.

As we continue to strive for a balance of patience and fervor for our cause, I’ll leave you with this question: What will you do to increase gender diversity in the boardroom in 2012?

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2012 International CES: Health Monitoring, MEMS and More

by AppliedSensor, Inc. CEO Tom Aiken

The 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada was a record breaker for attendance with more than 3,000 exhibitors and 150,000 attendees. Among the crowds, I noticed several exhibits dedicated to home health monitoring – with an exceptionally strong presence for blood pressure, glucose level and cardiac condition devices. Such is the digital age of wireless communication.

Most of these manufacturers view air quality as a major factor in overall health. In fact, monitoring volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is currently under consideration by many. If VOCs trigger breathing difficulties in your home, or even in your car, we have a series of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) sensors to track levels of these potentially harmful compounds.

Another hot topic at CES was micro-electronic mechanical systems, or MEMS. An event hosted by the MEMS Industry Group delved into the capabilities of MEMS in mobility, user interface control and multiband mobile phone design. “Connecting the Real World with the Digital World: Harnessing the Power of MEMS” featured a panel of both large and small MEMS manufacturers. The panelists noted that cost, size and power consumption have hindered the broad integration of sensors in consumer products. While the capabilities of sensors to meet practical needs has been proven in automotive applications, it was the advent of smart phones that brought high-volume implementation of MEMS devices to new levels and negated the prior barriers to use.

Speaking of smart phones, there are currently an estimated 9,000 iPhone apps dedicated just to health. One panelist said, “Healthcare is huge. Navigation, interconnectivity for automotive and home automation are big. Connectivity is nothing without information.” As a MEMS manufacturer, AppliedSensor is responding to the demands of mobility in consumer product sensor development with micro-machined MOS sensors that operate on very low power, are miniaturized to less than 2 mm x 2 mm and are made in the very high volumes required for adaption into consumer products.

Did you attend CES? What were the highlights of your experience?

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SFL Data’s Growing Fast!

by SFL Data CEO Christian Lawrence

Did you hear the news? SFL Data was recently selected as one of the “Top 100 Fastest-Growing Private Companies” in the San Francisco Bay Area for 2011 by the San Francisco Business Times.We had a blast at the gala awards ceremony, where we were honored for demonstrating a 71.3% increase in revenue growth from 2008 to 2010, ranking 61st out of 100 Bay Area companies. Publisher Mary Huss said, “What a credit to these outstanding companies that they have shown such noteworthy growth in the years from 2008 to 2010 – years that many companies were thrilled to stay flat.”

So what does our fast growth mean for you? It proves that more and more Fortune 500 companies and AmLaw 250 firms are recognizing the advantages of using fixed-price e-discovery managed service to get defensible results, reduced costs and greater control without having to build the function internally.

To learn more about the “Top 100 Fastest-Growing Private Companies” in the San Francisco Bay Area for 2011 go to:

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