Study finds women underrepresented in big Tennessee firms

Friday, February 18, 2011, Vol. 35, No. 7

NASHVILLE (AP) — A study has found that women remain underrepresented in corporate leadership posts at publicly traded companies in Tennessee.

The report found that more than 91 percent of the 617 corporate directors were men at a time when women made up 48 percent of the Tennessee work force. Of the 72 public corporations, 46 percent had no women directors.

The study is based on 2009 Securities and Exchange Commission filings. It is sponsored by Nashville CABLE, a regional executive women's group, and done by the Lipscomb University College of Business.

According to a news release, there were virtually no major gains since previous reports from 2006 and 2008.

"Our team now has conducted this study three times in a four-year period, and the chronically low number of women in Tennessee corporate leadership is disappointing," said Laura Williams, Lipscomb University assistant professor of management and faculty.

"When you also consider that only 6.86 percent of the top compensated positions in the state are held by women, and that men are being paid on average $349,363 (or 24 percent) more than women, certainly it shows that we have a long way to go toward gender parity in the leadership ranks of our public corporations."

Turney Stevens, dean of the Lipscomb College of Business and member of the CABLE Advisory Council, said women are influential investors, asset managers and consumers.

"Yet their talents are not sufficiently leveraged in the state's top-tier positions," Stevens said.

The study singled out 11 Tennessee companies with at least two women directors: AmSurg Corp.; Buckeye Technologies Inc.; Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc.; FedEx Corporation; First Farmers & Merchants Corp.; Healthways, Inc.; Mountain National Bancshares, Inc.; Pinnacle Financial Partners; Tractor Supply Company; Unum Group; and Wright Medical Group, Inc.