More talk than action on giving women a say on corporate boards
July is not the best of time of the year to get busy business people to spend the afternoon at the State House.
But when the issue is the need for putting more women on corporate boards, one can understand why they would show up. The gap remains stark: As of a year ago, women held only about 15 percent of the board seats at the 100 largest public companies in the state, according to the Boston Club’s research.
Trish Karter is among the biggest champions of the cause. The former Dancing Deer Baking Co. CEO and board member at the left-leaning Alliance for Business Leadership hosted a forum of C-level types in June 2014 at MIT to discuss improving pay for women and increasing their representation on boards of directors.
That event, backed by the alliance, helped prompt state Senator Karen Spilka of Ashland to file a bill aimed at encouraging corporate boards with fewer than nine directors to include at least two women, and larger ones to have at least three.
Now, the bill will get its day at the State House. Karter plans to join other high-profile executives on Tuesday to advocate for the proposal. The Legislature’s labor and workforce committee will take it up alongside separate bills aimed at strengthening the state’s laws on equal pay for women and improving accommodations for workers who are pregnant or breast feeding.
The new board proposal would also encourage companies to disclose the number of women on their boards. Although the bill would be nonbinding, Karter said it could still have a big impact by sending an important message.
“You talk to almost any CEO about this issue and they say, ‘Yeah, we agree,’ and then nothing happens,” Karter said. “If we can improve our performance . . . I see this is as yet one more way in which Massachusetts can outperform its neighboring states and the nation as a whole.”
Among those scheduled to testify in favor of the bill is a panel with Biogen senior director Javier Barrientos, Eastern Bank president Bob Rivers, and Bennie Wiley, former CEO of The Partnership .
Rivers acknowledges his company has fallen short on the issue: Currently, he said, two of Eastern Bank’s 12 board members are women. Rivers said he is eager to improve that number, in part because it’s better for business.
“The business issue is making sure you have the greatest diversity of thought at your company,” Rivers said, “that you’re taking advantage of the greatest pool of talent available.” — JON CHESTO
A new tenant for the ‘Pregnant Building’?
Is there enough room for two financial powerhouses in the Pregnant Building?
The 37-story tower at 100 Federal St. has long been home to a big bank, and the last time it served as a major corporate headquarters was back when FleetBoston Financial was still around. Bank of America held on to the distinctive building with the bulge for nearly a decade after acquiring Fleet in 2004.
Bank of America isn’t the only tenant there now, though it’s still the primary one. But the bank may soon have to share that title — and possibly some street-level signage rights — with the mutual fund manager Putnam Investments.
The word going around the city’s commercial real estate circles is that Putnam chief executive Bob Reynolds is seriously eyeing space at 100 Federal for a new headquarters, across Post Office Square from Putnam’s longtime home. Putnam currently leases about 240,000 square feet at One Post Office Square, and it employs 900 people there.
Boston Properties bought the tower at 100 Federal from Bank of America in 2012, and the bank leased back roughly half of the tower’s 1.3 million square feet at the time. A spokeswoman for Boston Properties declined to comment about Putnam’s potential interest in the space.
Jon Goldstein, Putnam’s public relations director, was also circumspect.
“Putnam has been evaluating a host of real estate options, including [staying at] its current facilities, as it determines the location of its headquarters for future years,” he said. “No final decision has been reached yet.” — JON CHESTO
Nonprofits get an incubator space
Boston tech entrepreneurs can choose from a variety of havens in which to grow their young businesses: They could seek admission to Somerville’s green-tech incubator, Greentown Labs, or apply to join the state-sponsored MassChallenge accelerator.
Now a group seeks to bring the incubator concept so common in the tech space to new groups that are launching nonprofit endeavors.
The Next Mile Project, a new co-working space for young ventures in the not-for-profit world, is snipping the ribbon at new digs at 1 Congress St. Tuesday. Founder Vilas Dhar’s goal has been to bring the same network, training, mentorship, and camaraderie available to tech startups to organizations working on issues like social justice and global development.
Dhar, a Boston lawyer who is a partner at Dhar Law, began loaning space within his law office about two years ago. Originally supported by the legal firm, The Next Mile now is an established nonprofit, funded by Dhar.
He counts some 20 groups as residents, including Komera, a leadership training program for young women in Rwanda, and Broad Street Maps, a group that’s building maps to help health care providers navigate rural areas.
Startups that want to enter must apply, laying out their vision for an enterprise. Admitted groups are then charged $250 per month per person for a desk, though scholarships and other subsidies are available, Dhar said. — NIDHI SUBBARAMAN