One-Third of Connecticut Legislators are Women, Reversing State Trend, Ranking 14th in U.S.

As the new Connecticut legislative session gets underway, 33.5 percent of lawmakers are women, the 14th highest percentage among the states.  The Connecticut legislature now includes 61 women, apparently the high water mark in state history, and exceeding the national average among the states of 28.5 percent. In the Senate, there are currently 9 women out of 33 members.  Eight of the nine are Democrats.  In the House, which currently has 149 members, 29 are Democrats and 22 are Republicans.

Connecticut’s 33.5 percent is from 182 seats, with five vacancies to be filled in special elections on February 26.  Candidates for those seats have not all been selected.

The ranks of women dropped by two in the Senate between Election Day and Opening Day of the legislative session, with former Senators Terry Gerratana of New Britain and Beth Bye of West Hartford accepting positions in the Lamont Administration and not taking the oath of office for a new legislative term.  Two male House members and a male Senate member also did not take their oaths of office in order to join the administration.

Nearly one-third of the women in the legislature this year - 20 of the 61 female legislators - are in their first term in the General Assembly.  Last year, women represented just over 27 percent of the legislature’s membership.

The 2018 election marked a slight comeback for Connecticut in terms of female representation.

Prior to this year, the state had fallen from ranking 8th to 19th during the past decade in the percentage of women serving in the legislature, with the percentage dropping from 31.6% as recently as 2009, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Connecticut’s 2009 legislature included 59 women, 31.6 percent of the membership, the 8th highest percentage among the states. In 2011, there were 56 women, 29.9 percent.

For their 2019 legislative sessions, the states with the largest contingent of female legislators are Nevada 50.8%, Colorado 47%, Oregon 41.1%, Washington 40.1%, Vermont 39.4%, Arizona 38.9%, Alaska 38.3%, Maine 38.2%, Maryland 37.8%, Rhode Island 37.2%, Illinois 36.2%, Michigan 35.8% and New Mexico 34.8%.  As with Connecticut, the numbers in other states may vary slightly due to resignations or elected legislators opting not to serve.

Nationally, women hold 2,110 of 7,383 state legislative seats.  Democrats hold more than twice as many – 1,430 Democrats and 663 Republicans. That is an increase of more than 300 Democratic women and a drop of about 40 Republican women in state legislatures across the country compared with 2017, according to NCSL data.


Women’s Economic Status in Connecticut Among Best in Nation, But Still Insufficient

Women are faring better in Connecticut than in most states in the nation, according to a new analysis that focused on data in two central areas of everyday life – Employment & Earnings and Poverty & Opportunity. Connecticut ranked 4th in the Employment and Earnings category, earning a B+, and 4th in the Poverty and Opportunity category, with a B- grade.

Status of Women in the States is a project of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a comprehensive project that presents and analyzes data for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Institute suggests that the data can be used “to raise awareness, improve policies, and promote women’s equality.”

Connecticut’s grade for women’s Employment & Earnings, B+, has improved since the 2004 Status of Women in the States report.  Its grade for women’s Poverty & Opportunity, B-, has dropped since 2004.

In the subcategories of Employment and Earnings, Connecticut ranked Connecticut ranked 2nd in median annual earnings for women employed full-time, 5th in the percent of all employed women in managerial or professional occupations, 13th in the percent of women in the labor force, and 38th in the earnings ratio between women and men employed full-time, year-round.

The Employment & Earnings Index measures states on women’s earnings, the gender wage gap, women’s labor force participation, and women’s representation in professional and managerial occupations. The top states were District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York.

Women working full-time, year-round have the highest earnings in the District of Columbia, where women’s median annual earnings are $65,000. Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey are tied for second, with women in those states earning $50,000 at the median.

In the Poverty and Opportunity subcategories, Connecticut ranked 2nd in the percent of women age 18 and older above poverty, 5th in the percent of women age 25 and older with a Bachelor’s degree or higher, 10th in the percent of women age 18-64 with health insurance, and 29th in the percent of businesses owned by women.

New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maryland, and New Jersey have the highest rates of women living above poverty in the country at 89.2 percent, 88.4 percent, 88.1 percent, and 88.1 percent, respectively.

The report noted that women in Connecticut aged 16 and older who work full-time, year-round have median annual earnings of $50,000, which is 76.9 cents on the dollar compared with men who work full-time, year-round. Hispanic women earn just 47 cents for every dollar earned by White men, according to the report. According to the report’s analysis, if employed women in Connecticut were paid the same as comparable men, their poverty rate would be reduced by more than half and poverty among employed single mothers would be cut in half.

In Connecticut, 32.7 percent of businesses in 2012 were owned by women, up from 28.1 percent in 2007.  The report also indicates that 94.2 percent of Connecticut’s women aged 18 to 64 have health insurance coverage, which is above the national average for women of 89.4 percent.

The report, published in March 2018, concludes that “Women in Connecticut have made considerable advances in recent years but still face inequities that often prevent them from reaching their full potential.”

Report Reflects Good News, Continuing Challenges for Women, Girls in Eastern CT

Women and girls in Eastern Connecticut are progressing in many ways, but gender equity is elusive in many others, according to a new report.  The Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut commissioned DataHaven to develop a report on the Status of Women and Girls in Eastern Connecticut, and the findings provide an insightful snapshot of disparities that persist, and challenges that remain and may increase, as well as diminish, in the years ahead. The purpose of the 26-page report, explains the Community Foundation’s President and Chief Executive Officer Maryam Elahi, is “to help inform and guide thoughtful conversations and inspire local ideas for social and policy advancements and investments.”   It is designed to be a “platform for action” to increase opportunity, access and equity for women and girls in Eastern Connecticut, officials indicated.  It is the first time that such a report was developed.

Among the key findings:

  • Young women are achieving in school, but greater educational attainment has yet to translate to economic equality.
  • Positive educational outcomes and economic equality are further out of reach for women of color.
  • Many occupations remain segregated by gender, and women make up a majority of part-time workers.
  • Women are at greater risk of financial insecurity, with single mothers at the greatest risk. 25% of all children in Eastern Connecticut live with a single mother, and 90% of single-parent households are headed by a mother.
  • Women in Eastern Connecticut are healthy, with a life expectancy of about 82 years—slightly above the national average, but below the state average.

The report also found that:

  • The opioid epidemic continues to ravage our communities, with deaths of women in 2016 more than double those of 2012.
  • Young women are at heightened risk for many mental health conditions. 35% of female students reported feeling hopeless or depressed vs. 19% of male students, and women are three times more likely to attempt suicide than men.
  • Violence against women continues to be a major public health problem. Almost 5,000 women in Windham and New London counties received services from domestic violence shelters.

The report defines Eastern Connecticut as the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut service area:  42 towns that include 453,000 people, 227,000 women.  The population of the region is 80% white, 9% Latina, 4% Black and 4% Asian.  Approximately 33,700 residents, or 7 percent, are foreign born.  Looking ahead, the report noted that the population of women ages 65 and up is projected to grow significantly over the next decade; estimated to increase 44 percent by 2025.

Continuing racial disparities are highlighted by the finding that among 90 percent of girls in the region’s class of 2016 graduated high school within four years, yet nearly 20 percent of women in New London and Windham/Willimantic lack a high school diploma.

The report noted that “a persistent gap” exists for women with degrees in STEM fields. Overall, 51 percent of men vs. 30 percent of women majored in science and engineering fields. Encouragingly, of 25-39 year-old women with degrees, 37 percent majored in the sciences. This is higher than previous generations.

Although women comprise 76 percent of educators, only 11 out of 41 superintendents in the region are women.  The report also found that 25 percent of businesses are women-owned.

“Women’s equality,” Elahi said, “is not just a women’s issue. It affects the wellbeing and prosperity of every family and community.”

The Community Foundation has organized public forums to discuss the report findings.  The first was held last week in Hampton, the next is February 15 in New London.

New Haven-based DataHaven’s mission is to improve quality of life by collecting, sharing, and interpreting public data for effective decision-making. The Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut serves 42 towns and is comprised of over 490 charitable funds, putting “philanthropy into action to address the needs, rights and interests of the region.”

Gender Disparity Is Alive and Not-So-Well; Particularly in Connecticut, Analysis Finds

Connecticut places dead last among the 50 states in the degree of gender gap in executive positions in the workplace and overall workplace environment for women, according to a new analysis prepared by the financial website WalletHub.  The state also ranked in the bottom ten in the “education and health” category, ranking higher – in the top ten – only in “political empowerment,” despite having fewer women in the state legislature than about a decade ago. Overall, the state ranked 28th among the “Best and Worst States for Women’s Equality.”

The challenges present in Connecticut are true – to varying degrees – nationwide.  In 2016, the U.S. failed to place in the top 10 — or even the top 40 — of the World Economic Forum’s ranking of 144 countries based on gender equality, WalletHub reports.

Among the states, the top 10, with the slimmest inequality gap, were Hawaii, Nevada, Illinois, Minnesota, Washington, Maine, North Dakota, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Vermont.  Among the other New England states, Massachusetts ranked #13, New Hampshire was #16, and Rhode Island was #34.  The widest gaps were in Texas, Virginia and Utah.

"Connecticut ranked below average overall mostly because of its rankings for two of the categories we analyzed, Workplace Environment (50th) and Education & Health (43rd),” WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez told CT by the Numbers.  “Connecticut's disparities between women and men are quite pronounced when it comes to the workplace environment. Women earn 23 percent less than men, 9th highest in the country, and Connecticut has the highest gap of women in executive positions. Large differences also appear when looking at higher-income earners, with a 13 percent gap between women and men, and the entrepreneurship gap in Connecticut is at 48 percent, again favoring men."

To determine where women receive the most equal treatment, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 50 states across 15 key indicators of gender equality in three central categories: workplace environment, education and health, and political empowerment  Among the indicators used in the analysis, Connecticut ranked 46th with among the largest educational attainment gap among Bachelor’s Degree holders, 48th in the entrepreneurship gap, 49th in the disparity among higher income wage earners (in excess of $100,000 annually) and 50th with the largest executive positions gap.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, just over one-quarter of Connecticut’s legislators are women, at 27.3 percent, compared with the national average among state legislatures of 24.8 percent.  There are 1,830 women serving in legislatures across the country.  In Connecticut, 42 of 151 House members are women, and 9 of the Senate’s 36 seats are held by women.   Among the states with the highest percentage of women in their legislature are Vermont, Colorado and Nevada with 39 percent, Arizona with 38 percent, and Illinois and Washington at 36 percent.  Connecticut’s numbers have declined since 2009, when a total of 59 women held legislative seats, 8 in the Senate and 51 in the House.

The workplace environment category included data on income disparity, the number of executive positions held, minimum wage workers, unemployment rate disparity, entrepreneurship rate disparity and the disparity in the average number of work hours.

The analysis found that in every state, women earn less than men. Hawaii has the lowest gap, with women earning 12 percent less, and Wyoming has the highest, 31 percent. Connecticut ranked 41st.  Rhode Island has the highest unemployment-rate gap favoring women, with 2.4 percent more unemployed men. Georgia has the highest gap favoring men, with 1 percent more unemployed women. The unemployment rate is equal for men and women in Illinois and Idaho.  In Connecticut’s it’s nearly identical, with the 0.3 percent more unemployed men than women, based on the data reviewed.

Women continue to be disproportionately underrepresented in leadership positions nationwide. According to the Center for American Progress, women make up the majority of the population and 49 percent of the college-educated labor force. Yet they constitute “only 25 percent of executive- and senior-level officials and managers, hold only 20 percent of board seats, and are only 6 percent of CEOs.”  In addition, salary inequity continues, and women are underrepresented in government.

The analysis was released to coincide with Women’s Equality Day, which is observed annually on August 26. The U.S. Congress designated the commemoration beginning in 1971 to remember the 1920 certification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote. The observance of Women’s Equality Day also calls attention to women’s continuing efforts toward full equality, according to the National Women’s History Project.

Back to the Future: Permanent Commission on Status of Women Resurrected as Nonprofit

When the state legislature surprisingly eliminated the landmark Connecticut Permanent Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW) on the heels of one of the agency’s most successful advocacy efforts on an array of pivotal issues, the dismay from an array of organizations across the state was strident and unified, but ultimately unsuccessful. The 2016 Legislative Session, which ended in June, had seen four of the largest gains for women’s rights. Bills to protect women from human trafficking, intimate partner homicide, campus sexual assault, and being forced to parent with a rapist all passed with bi-partisan support, with PCSW among the organizations leading the fight.

The agency, active and effective for 43 years, was no longer “permanent.”  It was history.  Unfazed, the legislature, pressed to find budgetary savings, merged it into a new structure, combined with former commissions on children and the elderly. For those involved with, and committed to, the work of the former PCSW, the legislature's approach fell short.  So they took matters into their own hands.  pcsw

The tone was considerably more upbeat this week as it was announced that PCSW was back in business, new and improved, with an educational nonprofit and a companion advocacy organization formed to continue the work on issues that remain on the front burner – or ought to.

A group of former State Commissioners and former key employees of the previous PCSW, dismantled at the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, announced the formation of a new non-profit initiative to advance the work of the former state agency, which was among the oldest and largest women’s commissions left in the United States.

The Commission’s legacy of developing landmark legislation and research in the areas of sexual harassment, domestic violence, family medical leave protections, pay equity, and human trafficking will continue, advocates stressed, only now emanating from outside of state government.

“We will partner with leaders in Hartford, CWCS, and organizations around the state to ensure that the public policy agenda for women and girls addressed by the former PCSW continues to move forward. We will provide expertise, research, resources, and advocacy to improve the lives of women and girls in this state,” said Mary Lee Kiernan, former Chair of the PCSW and President of the newly formed Permanent Commission on the Status of Women in Connecticut Education Fund, Inc. (PCSW Education Fund, Inc.). PCSW Education Fund, Inc. is applying for 501(c)(3) tax status with the IRS.

A new website,, was launched along with the new organizations.  The new initiatives were announced at a State Capitol news conference, alongside the statue of Prudence Crandall, Connecticut’s state heroine. news-conf

“Our new initiative will advocate in the same key policy areas addressed by the former PCSW, including economic security; health and safety for women of all ages; discrimination in all forms; education; and women’s leadership,” explained Carolyn Treiss, Executive Director of the former PCSW and President of the newly formed Permanent Commission on the Status of Women in Connecticut, Inc. (PCSW, Inc.). PCSW, Inc. is applying for 501(c)(4) tax status with the IRS and intends to advocate for an annual legislative agenda in these key policy areas. 501(c)(4) tax status allows for unlimited advocacy on legislation.

The board members of these two entities currently consist of eleven of the sixteen former PCSW commissioners, the former PCSW Executive Director and the former PCSW Policy Director. These individuals provide expertise on a wide variety of issues affecting women and girls, and they represent all regions of the state.

“I am impressed with the expertise that our board members bring, particularly around the intersection of gender with issues of race, ethnicity, age, religion, and socio-economic status,” explained Catherine Ernsky, President of the Ernsky Group and Vice President of the PCSW Education Fund, Inc. Board members also bring experience in the areas of law, finance, medicine, insurance, communications, philanthropy, health equity, criminal justice, state and local government, legislation, education, environmental justice, organized labor, and non-profit leadership.

An advisory board to the PCSW Education Fund, Inc. has been established that includes Senator Richard Blumenthal; Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro; former PCSW Executive Director and current President of the Ms. Foundation, Teresa Younger; former PCSW Honorary Commissioner and Executive Director of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale, Patricia Russo; former PCSW Honorary Commissioner Patricia Hendel; and former PCSW Honorary Commissioner Barbara DeBaptiste.  Pro-Bono legal services are being provided by Wiggin & Dana, LLP. PFK O’Conner Davies, LLP will serve as auditors.

PCSW Education Fund, Inc. and PCSW Inc. intend to collaborate with non-profit partners from around the state, the new CWCS, and state leaders to “continue the long legacy of progress for women and girls” that characterized the former state agency.

“Collaboration in this space is key,” explained Fran Pastore, President of the Women’s Business Development Council, a frequent collaborator with the former PCSW. “The board members of these entities are well-known for building effective coalitions. I hope to work with them to improve financing for women-owned businesses and workplace practices impacting women. Ultimately, these issues spur economic growth and improve the lives of everyone in the state.”

In 1973, the CT General Assembly passed, and Governor Thomas Meskill signed into law, Public Act 73-559, establishing the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women. The PCSW was charged with providing research and analysis on issues related to gender discrimination, women’s health and safety, and economic security. “In its 43 year history, the PCSW has informed many important public policies that make Connecticut a desirable place for women to live and work today,” the Commission explained in its final legislative report, issued in June.  The list of highlight legislative victories runs six pages, single spaced, in small type.

Back in February, Kiernan testified at the legislature, explaining that "The empirical evidence on gender in Connecticut is very clear. Women still face widespread discrimination in the workplace and beyond. Women continue to face far greater barriers to educational success than men. Women face wage inequality, occupational segregation and barriers to credit in the business sector. Women still struggle for basic economic self-sufficiency and fail to build the assets needed for retirement at greater rates than their male counterparts. And women and girls face increasingly complex threats to their health and safety. All of these issues are compounded and complicated by race and ethnicity."

Now, a new chapter begins, with experienced hands at the helm.


CT Ranks #21 for Working Women, New Analysis Finds

Connecticut ranks 21st in the nation for working women seeking to balance the various aspects of work and family life, according to a new analysis by the Institute of Women’s Policy Research. The top five:  New York, California, D.C., New Jersey and Rhode Island. The bottom five:  Indiana, Utah, Montana, Mississippi and Wyoming. Women make up almost half of the workforce, according to the report, which notes that “few families have someone who can stay at home to take care of health emergencies, pick children up from school and supervise howoman with laptop and childmework, or take an elderly parent to a doctor’s appointment.”  In half of all families with children, women are the primary or co-breadwinner, the report indicates, and low-income families are particularly likely to have all parents in the labor force.

“Yet, as mothers’ labor force participation has dramatically increased in the past decades (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014) and the number of women and men aged 50 and older who provide care for a parent has tripled during the last 15 years (MetLife 2011), the development of an infrastructure to support workers with family caregiving responsibilities has been largely neglected," the report stresses.logo

The work and family composite compares states’ performance across three components of work-family policy—paid leave, dependent and elder care, and child care—and a fourth component, the gender gap in the labor force participation of parents of children under six, an indicator that highlights gender inequality in family care of young children.

Connecticut received an overall “C” grade in the analysis of work and family issues; no state received a grade higher than B.  In breaking down the rankings, Connecticut ranked 5th in paid leave legislation, 27th in Elder and Dependent Care, 34th in Child Care, and 12th in the Gender Gap in Parents’ Labor Force Participation Rates.  The report indicated that 11.6 percent of women in Connecticut have a person with a disability in their household.

21The analysis pointed out that nationally “many workers lack access to even the most basic supports such as earned sick days and job-protected paid parental leave. Quality child care is also out of reach for many families because it is not affordable. Women are the large majority of family caregivers, and in the absence of reliable family supports, too many women are forced to make difficult decisions between keeping their jobs and caring for their family members.”

New York, California, and the District of Columbia have the highest scores on the work and family composite index, which reflects, in part, high rankings on paid leave. None of the highest ranking states, however, consistently ranks in the top ten states for each of the four component indices, the analysis indicates.

The large majority of mothers are in the workforce, according to the data cited in the report, including 62 percent of mothers who gave birth within the last 12 months map(U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau 2015). The report indicates that Connecticut has 392,974 “breadwinner mothers in households with children under 18,” using 2013 data, ranking the state 25th in the nation at 29 percent.

The Work & Family index was one chapter in a larger report card developed by the Institute of Women’s Policy Research, in their Status of Women in the States report.  Connecticut’s ranking was lowest in the Work & Family analysis.  The state ranked as high as 4th in Poverty & Opportunity, 5th in Employment & Earnings, 6th in Reproductive Rights, 7th in Health & Well-Being, 12th in Political Participation, in addition to ranking 21st in Work & Family.  Overall, Connecticut ranked 5th when all the areas researched were considered.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women, promote public dialogue, and strengthen families, communities, and societies.  Among the partners in the study in Connecticut were the General Assembly's Permanent Commission on the Status of Women and Fairfield County's Community Foundation Fund for Women & Girls.


CT Ranks #7 in USA in Women in State Legislature; Number Unchanged in State, Drops Nationally

Election results indicate that there will be fewer women serving in state legislatures around the country  in 2015 than this year.  In Connecticut, the number remains unchanged from this year, slightly below the recent peak in 2009. Approximately 1,750 women legislators will be in office in 2015, compared to approximately 1,784.this year. The national percentage of female to male legislators will be approximately 23.7 percent, a slight decrease from the 2014 figure of 24.2 percent.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), Connecticut will have 8 women in the State Senate and 45 women in the House of Representatives when the 2015 session opens. That is a total of 53 women holding 28.3 percent of the 187 seats, ranking the state tied at #7 in the number of women serving in the state legislature and at#14 in the percentage of women in the legislature.  Although a number of office-holders changed, the numbers remained constant from 2014 to 2015 in Connecticut.

The national percentage of female state legislatures reached 20 percent in the 1992 election, but has not grown more than 4.5 percentage points since then.  Colorado is expected to have the highest percentage, 43 percent, of women serving, and Oklahoma the lowest at 12.1 percent.  South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming will each have only one woman serving in their senates.

CT Senate

While the number of women in Connecticut's 36-seat Senate has remained relatively static for the past six years at 8 or 9, the representation of women among House members has dropped from 51 in 2009 to 45 in the upcoming 2015 session.  In 2013, there were 46 women in the House and 9 women in the Senate – 29.4 percent of legislators.  In 2009, the breakdown was 51 and 8, for a total of 59 – 31.6 percent of the legislature.

There will be one woman among legislative leaders.  State Rep. Themis Klarides of Derby was chosen by her House Republican colleagues as their caucus leader, the first woman to be selected to lead the KlaridesRepublicans.  The House Speaker, House Majority Leader, Senate President Pro Tempore Senate Majority Leader, and Senate Republican Leader for the 2015 session are men, as was true in the previous legislative session.  Connecticut has seen a woman Speaker of tCT Househe House, but there has not been a woman selected to serve as Senate President Pro Tempore or Majority Leader.

In other elected offices in Connecticut, three of the state’s six statewide Constitutional offices are held by women – Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill and State Treasurer Denise Nappier.  All three were re-elected this year.  Of the state’s seven members of Congress, both U.S. Senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy are men (and former state legislators) and two of five U.S. House members are women, Elizabeth Esty (a former state legislator) and Rosa DeLauro.  Both House members were re-elected this year, as were Congressmen Joe Courtney, Jim Himes and John Larson.

NCSL points out that conventional wisdom has held that one reason women are less likely to run for office is because of greater family caregiving responsibilities. A recent study, however, found that family situation had no effect on a potential candidate’s ambition to run for office—and this held true for both women and men. Other factors that may be at play include women’s perceptions of their qualifications (women tend to think they are less qualified than men), and political party systems of candidate recruitment.

Looking ahead to the 2015 legislative sessions, the highest percentage of women in legislative bodies are in Colorado (42%), Vermont (41%), Minnesota (33%), Washington (33%), Nevada (32%), Arizona (31%), Illinois (31%), Oregon (31%), Alaska (30%), Maryland (30%), New Jersey (29%), Maine (29%), Hawaii (29%) and Connecticut (28%).

Based on returns from the 2014 election earlier this month, when state legislatures convene early next year, New Hampshire will have 112 women, Vermont will have 74, Minnesota will have 67, Maryland 56,  Illinois 55, Maine 54, and Connecticut and Georgia, 53 each.

The partisan composition of women the nation’s 50 state legislatures is 683 Republicans and 1,058 Democrats.  (As well as 4 Third Party office-holders and 10 non-partisan in Nebraska.)

Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, comments by women legislators



women in legislature 2014


Women Aren’t Leading Nation's Top Art Museums; Connecticut Fares Better

When the Wadsworth Atheneum, America’s oldest public art museum, hired Susan Lubowsky Talbott as Executive Director in 2008, she was described by the museum’s board chair as “the absolute best person on the face of this planet to lead the way.”

Talbott, who will be marking six years at the helm of the state’s leading art museum, came to the state after three years as the director of Smithsonian Arts at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.  Previously, she was director and C.E.O. of the Des Moines Art Center from 1998 to 2005, where she formed partnerships with more than 100 community organizations and is credited with doubling museum attendance during her first two years.

Having a woman at the helm of a leading art museum is more the exception than the rule, according to a report by the Association of Art Museums Directors, a professional organization, The New York Times reported recently.   The organization indicated that women run jut a quarter of the biggest art museums in the United States and Canada, and earn a third less than their male counterparts.

The report also noted that “strides mamuseum leadersde by women at small and midsize museums” (often university or contemporary art institutions) where women hold nearly half of the directorships and earn on a par with men.  Just five of the 33 most prominent art museums are led by women.

Amy Meyers is Director of the Yale Center for British Art.  The Yale Center for British Art is a public art museum and research institute for the study of British art and culture. Presented to Yale University by Paul Mellon (Yale College, Class of 1929), the Center houses the largest collection of British art outside the United Kingdom.  Meyers has served since 2002. A Yale alumna (she earned a Ph.D. in American studies in 1985), Meyers was previously curator of American art at the Henry E. Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California.

As director of the Yale Center for British Art, Meyers has worked to strengthen the museum's role as a leading research and educational institute in the history of arts, while continuing its active exhibitions program. She has reached out to students, faculty and scholars to involve them in the life of the center and created a Preservation Committee to oversee conservation of the current museum site.atheneum

As for the other leading museums in the state, it’s reigning men.

The New Britain Museum of American Art, founded in 1903, was the first institution in this country devoted to collecting and exhibiting American art. The Museum’s collection comprises more than five thousand works and is constantly expanding in an effort to reflect our ever-evolving culture.  Leading the effort is director is Douglas Hyland.  Hyland arrived in 1999 from the San Antonio Museum, where he was director.  In a 2009 article, Connecticut magazine reported that “in the 10 years since his arrival, Hyland has doubled its collection to 10,000 objects. He has also doubled its full-time staff, from 12 to 24, doubled the number of docents, to 100, and more than doubled museum membership, from 1,200 to 3,500.”

The director of the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, the home of American Impressionism, is Jeff Anderson. Peter C. Sutton is Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Bruce Museum in Greenwich.  Bruce Museum offers a changing array of exhibitions and educational programs that promote the understanding and appreciation of art and science.  The Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London interim Director is James Eckerle. LAAM is the only museum in Southeastern Connecticut to offer a comprehensive collection of European art as well as American fine and decorative art: the permanent collection is comprised of over 10,000 objects.

Although not an art museum, prominent in Connecticut’s museum roster is the Mark Twain House & Museum, where Cindy Lovell, not yet a year into her position as Executive Director, has been characterized by a focus on Twain and education in her career.  After working for years as a university professor, she became director of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home in Hannibal, Mo. Her next stop was Hartford.

The Times reported that women leading art museum with budgets of over $20 million across the country are Kimerly Rorschach, who was hired in 2012 to lead the Seattle Art Museum, Janet Carding at the Royal Ontario Museum, Karol Wight at the Corning Museum of Glass, Nathalie Bondil at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and Kaywin Feldman at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Photos:  Susan Lubowsky Talbott (left) and Amy Meyers; Wadsworth Atheneum.

Adding Women to Corporate Boards Makes Financial Errors Less Likely

Two years ago, Calvert Asset Management Company, Inc. and the Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds (CRPTF) announced the successful resolution of their joint shareholder proposal on board diversity filed with Netflix, the world's largest subscription entertainment service. The announcement came as the company named its first female director, Ann Mathers, an entertainment industry veteran who joined the Netflix Board on July 1 of that year.  On behalf of the CRPTF, Connecticut Treasurer Denise L. Nappier has spearheaded Connecticut's initiative to increase the participation of women and minorities as members of Boards of Directors of corporations in which the $24 billion pension fund invests.

New data developed by a team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee suggests that Nappier got it right, at least in one critical aspect of business.  Companies whose directors include one or more women are 38% less likely to have to restate their financial-performance figures to correct errors than firms with all-male boards, says the team led by Lawrence J. Abbott of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Gender diversity may make a board more open to viewpoints that oppose the CEO's and may encourage a more deliberative and collaborative decision-making process, according to the research, published in the American Accounting Association journal Accounting Horizons.

Treasurer Nappier has filed numerous shareholder resolutions on corporate board diversity, in accordance with the State of Connecticut's investment policy and the recognition that companies and firms that demonstrate a commitment to diversity are more likely to succeed in an increasingly global marketplace.

Restatements are necessitated by serious misrepresentations, whether through error or fraud, in corporate financial reports. A woman's presence on a board, the researchers found, does more on behalf of financial integrity than such tried-and-true measures as requiring the board's audit committee to consist entirely of independent directors, one of them with financial expertise, and mandating that it meet at least four times annually. The study finds those measures in combination to reduce the likelihood of restatements by about 20%, about half the effect achieved by having a woman director.

As the findings point out, “Gender diversity can potentially affect the outcome by generating more questioning of the status quo, greater acknowledgment and legitimization of opposition and third-party viewpoints (including those of the audit committee, auditor, or internal audit director) and a slower, more deliberative and collaborative decision-making process...heightening the monitoring effectiveness that may [otherwise] be diminished by groupthink."

The study's findings involved a comparison of companies that had to issue financial restatements with a control group of similar firms with no such reporting problem. The restatement sample consisted of 540 firms in total, with each of the restating firms matched with a control company on the basis of market capitalization, industry, and the ranking of the firm that performed its auditing.

Nappier, inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame in 2011, has served as State Treasurer since 1999, having previously served as Treasurer of the City of Hartford.  She is the first African-American woman to serve as a State Treasurer in the nation’s history.