Group helps companies recruit women

December 8, 2009 (CHICAGO) A recent report shows some positions are slipping away-- but there are a few signs of progress.

"The opportunity to run a global, publicly-traded company of the size of almost $4 billion was very attractive to me," said Ilene Gordon, CEO, Corn Products International.

Just seven months on the job, Gordon is one of only three local women who hold the top spot at one of Chicago's 50 largest publicly-traded companies -- known as the Chicago 50.

"Companies initially put a lot of focus on bringing very qualified women to the senior positions and it's plateaued probably because in the last couple of years, there have been challenges in the economy and it hasn't been a priority," said Gordon.

Monica Fohrman is a board member with the Chicago Network -- a group that tracks the progress of executive women in Chicago companies. She believes the economy is not the only factor to blame.

"In certain companies, the old boy network simply kicks in at a certain level. So, board of directors that are made up of men, reach out to other men and you have to make an effort to find women to put on your slate," said Fohrman.

A recent report by The Chicago Network shows 17 companies of the Chicago 50 had no women executive officers and 32 companies had no women as top earners. The results also show women of color make up less than three-percent of directors and less than two-percent of CEOs.

Michele Coleman Mayes is senior vice president and general counsel at Allstate. She said companies do themselves a disservice by not actively recruiting, rewarding and retaining a diverse workforce.

"The thing that resonates with me is that good ideas come from everywhere and if you exclude a certain group, then are you excluding a good idea or a new approach or a better result?" Mayes said.

The Chicago Network is launching a recruiting tool to help companies identify women for positions in leadership positions. See the full report at

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