DETROIT - Women are underrepresented in the top leadership of automotive companies in Michigan and have even lost ground, a new study says.
But the head of Inforum Center for Leadership, which commissioned the study, says she sees reason for hope.
Michigan is home to many of the world's largest automakers and suppliers. As of July, nine of the 20 automotive companies among the state's 100 largest public companies had no female board members or women among their five highest paid executives, the 2005 Michigan Women's Leadership Index reports.
A similar study in 2003 found that five of the 17 auto-related companies among the state's top 100 companies had no women in those positions.
Inforum Center, of Detroit, commissioned Michigan State University to conduct the study. It is scheduled to be released this week.
Inforum CEO Terry Barclay calls the results of this year's survey discouraging as they relate to automotive companies.
But she adds: "What we hear all the time, and see concrete evidence of, is that the bench is growing. I expect this report in 2007 is going to look very different. I think we're going to see a dramatic increase in the number of women in these top roles."
The study assigned points to each company for the number of its female top executives and board members. It placed greater value on executives because of their wider influence on their companies' daily operations, Barclay says.
Ford Motor Co. and Veri-Tek International Corp., a testing equipment supplier that was not part of the 2003 study, received this year's highest scores among Michigan automotive companies.
This month, Ford named Anne Stevens COO of the Americas. She is the highest ranking woman at an automaker. A Ford spokeswoman says it won't be known whether Stevens is one of the company's five highest paid executives until Ford issues its proxy statement next year.
Ford and General Motors have added female board members since the 2003 study.
Katy Barclay, GM's vice president of global human resources, said in an e-mail message that "over the last nine years, we've experienced a 215 percent increase in women in our top 400 leadership positions worldwide."
Several suppliers in Michigan also earned points in the study for adding women to their boards. They include Hayes Lemmerz International Inc., American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. and Lear Corp.