“Getting more women a seat at the table is not just a top-down approach, it’s a bottoms-up approach as well,” said Lauren Remington Platt on Monday afternoon during a lunch at Spring Place. The Vensette founder and ceo wasn’t talking about the event’s seating arrangements, however; she was referencing the ratio of women sitting on the boards of public companies. This month marks the first time a publicly traded company has a board of directors being led by an 80 percent female majority — the digital deals site Travelzoo. Before lunch, Tina Brown sat down with Travelzoo’s female board members Beatrice Tarka, Carrie Liu, Mary Reilly and Rachel Barnett to lead a panel discussion.
“This is really a unicorn — a unicorn in sets of pumps,” said Brown. “Even though women make up 47 percent of the U.S. workforce and control nearly 75 percent of household spending, they account for just 20 percent of all S&P 500 directors. Which is a pretty shocking disparity.”
Liu and Barnett are the company’s newest board members, having been appointed in May 2017. “It’s difficult for women to break in the tradition — whether you like it or not, there’s an old-boys network that goes on with respect to especially board seats,” Barnett told the audience, which included Diana Picasso, Taryn Simon, Carol Alt and Grace Hightower De Niro.
“In this day and age, it’s not just about earnings anymore, it’s about how you’re viewed publicly as a company, it’s your moral compass. Consumers want to buy from a place that they feel is diverse, and is taking these sorts of issues seriously,” Barnett continued. “At the end of the day, the diverse boards will have the greatest debate, and will hopefully have the best ideas that emerge. And that’s what will make the company more successful and more competitive in the environment that we are [in] today.”