The nonprofit organization Milwaukee Women inc, recently released its 15th annual research report, the “Power of 3,“ presenting an overview of the condition of senior level employment for women in Wisconsin.

The organization works to achieve balanced representation of women on boards of directors to maximize the performance of Wisconsin businesses. Highlighting in the latest research from Catalyst is that finding that companies with three or more women directors outperform those with low representation.

The “Power of 3” report found that 12 of Wisconsin’s 50 largest public companies have three or more female directors – a 33% increase from 2017. The percentage of women holding director seats on the boards of the WI 50 reached 18.9%, a seven percent increase from 2017 (17.6%). Additionally, 30% of the WI 50 have three or more women executives.

“Numerous studies have shown the connection between board diversity and greater financial performance, and specifically the benefits of having at least three female directors,” said Lindsay Hammerer, partner at KPMG and chair of Milwaukee Women inc. “It is promising to see that of the WI 50, 12 companies have now reached this milestone, and that we continue to see steady growth in the number of women representatives on the boards of directors of the WI 50.”

Other key findings in the 2018 report included:

  • Women Directors: Over half of the WI 50 (26 out of 50) now have two or more female board members, compared to only 6 percent in 2008 (3 out of 50).
  • Women Executives: Thirty percent of the WI 50 have three or more women executives and 50 percent of the WI 50 have two or more women executives. However, 20 percent of the WI 50 have no women executives.
  • Across Industry Sectors (consumer cyclical, financial services, industrials, technology and utilities): Wisconsin publicly traded utilities had the highest percentage of female directors (33%), exceeding both the national and regional averages. In other industry sectors, Wisconsin ranked lower when compared to neighboring states, such as Minnesota and Michigan.

Of the WI 50, Alliant Energy Corporation continues to top the list with the highest percentage of female directors (56 percent or five of its nine directors). This year, Quad/Graphics, Inc. topped the list of the WI 50 companies with the most female executives. Twenty-seven percent of the company’s executives (seven out of 26) are women.

The report also highlights best practices to improve gender diversity on boards. “Ensuring a visible commitment to diversity throughout an organization is one of several best practices to improve gender diversity. Changing your mind-set, expanding your criteria and maintaining an active pipeline are additional best practices that have enabled successful CEOs to help cultivate diversity and inclusion on both their boards and executive teams,” said Hammerer.

Milwaukee Women inc has been producing research on board gender diversity of the 50 largest Wisconsin-based public companies since 2003.