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Monday, March 07, 2005 | In this post Sarbanes-Oxley era, I often hear that there is a shortage of qualified board members. Many chief executives no longer feel that the risks and time commitments are warranted by the rewards of sitting at the boardroom table. But I know who does want to sit at that table – executive women.

Based upon 2004 proxy data for public biotech and high tech companies, women represent only 4 percent of board members of these San Diego companies. With the shortage of qualified board members and a large pool of UCSD Athena members (women executives in biotech and high tech companies in San Diego) who are willing to serve, what can be done to bring these women to San Diego boardroom tables?

First, we (as a community) need to create an awareness of these statistics and to continue to monitor our progress by compiling 2005 proxy data. Most executive recruiters that perform board searches will tell you that “diversity” is a stated goal for recruiting. Let’s see how successful companies are in achieving this goal.

Second, prospective board members should prepare themselves for board service by seeking training and becoming “certified directors.” There are a number of training courses offered by our local universities, as well as multi-day courses at UCLA. Such training benefits seasoned board members, but is especially beneficial to aspiring board members who are seeking their first opportunity.

After obtaining the director certification, the next step is to let your colleagues in the community know of your interest and consider joining an organization for directors such as Corporate Directors Forum, http://www.directorsforum.com, which offers a registry for members. CDF also provides continuing education to members through monthly meetings.

UCSD Athena is calling upon leaders in our community, company CEOs and industry group leaders to help identify opportunities for women in the boardroom. Joe Panetta, president and CEO of BIOCOM, believes that women do have a future in the boardroom. He provided the following words of support, “As more women move into the ranks of senior management, there will be opportunity for more women to join boards in San Diego. We already have a good number of women in senior management, and it will be BIOCOM’s charge to continue to create opportunity for these women to meet and network with investors, CEOs and board members so that they will become known as individuals who are talented, experienced and available.”

We are anxiously awaiting proxy season for 2005 so that we can once again complete the scorecard for progress of women in the boardroom.

Karin Eastham, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Burnham Institute, has over 25 years experience in financial and operations management, primarily in life sciences companies. Karin also serves as a director on several biotechnology companies, public and private, and is on the board of UCSD Athena.

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