Tenn. companies make little progress on board room diversity

Regal Entertainment Group CEO Amy Miles remains the only female chief executive of a Tennessee-based public company, according to an annual report by Lipscomb University and Nashville CABLE, a diverse network of professionals.

The report “shows little progress toward gender diversity” in corporate boardrooms across the state in recent years. Since 2007 when the university researched the issue women have held between 7.9 and 8.3 percent percent of the board positions for Tennessee public companies, the report says.

The “Women in Corporate Leadership” study found that while 47 percent of the Tennessee work force was female in fiscal 2010, women held only 8 percent of the 566 public company board seats. Of the 17 new independent board directors appointed in Tennessee during fiscal 2010, only three were women.

Miles was appointed CEO of Knoxville-based Regal, the largest movie theater operator in North America, in June 2009. Prior to that there were no women CEOs of Tennessee public companies, the report says.

Companies that don’t diversify their leadership are missing a chance to make higher profits, according to the Lipscomb study.

“In addition to a better understanding of diverse perspectives, companies with women in leadership positions are likely to experience enhanced financial performance,” the report says. “For example, Fortune 500 companies that promoted more women into executive and director roles earned 16 to 89 percent more profit than the median Fortune 500 companies in the same industry.”

And, companies with women in leadership roles typically “have higher IPO valuations, suggesting that the market values diversity in leadership,” the study says.

Sixty-five Tennessee public companies were included in the study. Of those, 29, or 44.6 percent, had all-male boards, the report says. Ten of the companies had two or more women on their boards – Buckeye Technologies Inc., Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, FedEx Corp., First Horizon National Corp., HealthStream Inc., Healthways Inc., Mountain National Bancshares, Pinnacle Financial Partners, Tractor Supply Co. and Unum Group.

Here’s the full report: “Women in Corporate Leadership: 2011 Census”