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Viewpoint: 2020 Women on Boards movement gains traction in Wilmington

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Jennifer Smuts
Guest Columnist

With more than 1 million business entities taking advantage of Delaware’s attractive incorporation services, it is fitting that Wilmington is getting “on board” with 2020 Women on Boards (2020WOB).

About a year ago when the #MeToo movement was in full swing and creating a societal shift, I wanted to lend my voice to women who needed it. I looked around to see where I could help and was connected to Betsy Berkhemer-Credaire, CEO at 2020 Women on Boards, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit campaign created to educate and enable more women to serve on corporate boards of directors, and more companies to seek and select them. 

The goal is to raise the percentage of women on corporate boards in the United States to 20% or greater by next year. The 2018 national statistic was only 17.7%, and it is expected to be higher this year due to intense efforts by 2020WOB and institutional investors to urge companies to add women; and the new California law that requires companies to add women to their boards. 

The idea started in Boston 10 years ago when Stephanie Sonnabend and Malli Gero became frustrated with the slow progress being made to increase the numbers of women who serve on corporate boards. 

“There are four vital services of 2020WOB: the only website that tracks and publishes the numbers of women serving on the Russell 3000 public company boards; an annual Gender Diversity Index research report of trends in every state and industry sector; the National Conversation on Board Diversity events hosted every November, and our ‘Get on Board!’ Workshops” said Berkhemer-Credaire “We are very proud to have Wilmington among 32 cities that will stage events this year, with almost 10,000 men and women attending throughout the United States, London, Madrid, Mexico City and Hong Kong.” 

The Wilmington 2020WOB Steering Committee is made up of accomplished leaders in the community including:

• Jennifer Smuts, (co-chair) Chief Marketing Officer, Connolly Gallagher LLP 

• Lynn Evans, (co-chair) Director of Women’s Leadership, University of Delaware, Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics

• Janice Nevin, President & Chief Executive Officer, Christiana Care Health System

• Doneene Damon, President, Richards, Layton & Finger P.A. 

• Stephanie Staats, Chief Executive Officer, YWCA-Delaware

• Jennifer Kmiec, Executive Director, Committee of 100 

• Kyle Evans Gay, Attorney, Connolly Gallagher LLP

• Terri Hartwell Easter, President, T.H. Easter Consulting

• Bonnie Adler, Principal, PSR&C Consulting

• Elaine Bittner, CEO, EB Strategy Partners

• Donna Kinzel, Chief Financial Officer, Ursuline Academy

• Temeka Easter Rice, Director-Social Media, SallieMae

We hope all Delaware Business Times readers will become supporters of 2020 Women on Boards — or become donors — and invite you to join us at The National Conversation on Board Diversity Breakfast on Thursday, Nov. 21, from 7:30 to 9:30 am, at the University & Whist Club, with a keynote panel of directors and CEOs followed by roundtable discussions. 

The national question to be discussed in all cities this year is “How Can We Help Each Other Seek Allies to Find Corporate Board Seats?”

Jennifer Smuts is chief marketing officer for Connolly Gallagher LLP. For more information about 2020WOB, contact her at jsmuts@connollygallagher.com or (302) 888-6206. 

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