Women Trustees: How Stands the Question?

      Three years ago I raised the impertinent question of how GC 34's document on women relates to the boards of our institutions of higher learning? (See NJN, June, 1995: "Women Board Members: a First Corporate Response to GC 34?")

      If the stimulus embedded in that early cry wete to have any effect, three years would not seem to be an unreasonable period for indicators of movement.

      I have gone through alumni publications and presidents' reports fiom the various institutions, compiling a list of all the trustees of our 28 institutions of higher education. With this list we are in a position to make some tentative observations.

      It turns out that18% of the members on their boards are women. There as many as 11 : women members on a 35-'person board and as few as 2 on a 32-person board. That translates to a range from a high of 31 % women members on one board down to a low of only 65 on the lowest of the group. 18 of the 28 institutions either match or surpass the 18% average for the group, which means that the collective average is being pulled down by the 10 institutions below the norm.

      If we work only from those identifications which are quite clear, it would appear that the dominant constellation is women who are presented as executives or managers. My rough count indicates at least 11 from media-related businesses, roughly the same number from the field of financial investment or money management, and close to that number from non-profit agencies and marketing. A small number work in real estate. The second broad category would be women in executive positions (presidents deans, etc.) in other institutions of higher learning. Less frequently would the woman appear to he a classroom professor. A representative but significantly smaller number come from the courts or from legal firms. A few are significant players in the health-care field, while the smallest identifiable other category would be women working directly for the church as pastoral agents. Interestingly enough, three of the women are active in prison ministry.

So what is to be made of this rough picture? I offer no interpretation of what the data might mean. I leave it to those of Ours who represent the vision of the Society by serving on our boards of trustees to ask the question: is this good enough in the light of our rhetoric?


Father George Wilson (MAR) is a consultant for Management Design Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio.