Women to Save Pier 1?

I was perusing my online newsletter from Workforce.com when I came across a couple of interesting articles. One about a 4-year study of Fortune 500 companies providing evidence that “Firms with More Women on Boards Perform Better Than Those That Don’t.” “We have established a correlation between diverse boards and strong corporate performance,” says Kara Helander, vice president, Western Region at New York-based Catalyst.

I, then, read an article about Pier 1 Imports’ financial woes and their plan to correct their downturn by cutting healthcare costs. The plan includes cutting employees’ hours to disqualify them for health benefits (very Wal*Mart-like). Pier 1 CEO Alex Smith is calling it a “cost-efficiency mission.” Sounds to me like a nice way to say, “Hey employees, we’re screwing you, but keep up the good work because you’re improving our bottom line.” According to the article, “Pier 1 Imports soon will learn whether cutting health care benefits for the very employees who deliver what the company calls its signature in-store shopping experience will help resurrect the failing retailer or exacerbate its multimillion-dollar losses.”

I could go on and on discussing why I think this is a tragic solution to their problem, but given that I just read the Catalyst study, my first thought was, “Huh? I wonder if there is a correlation between their performance and the number of women they have on their Board?” So, I googled Pier 1. Imagine that … the Board of Directors is made up entirely of men! I’m completely flabbergasted! Pier 1?! All Men?! What are they thinking??? They might do well to heed this statement from the study: “It makes sense that companies with more women on their boards would perform better than those that don’t because these companies probably have a better handle on their customer base,” says Dale Winston, CEO of Battalia Winston, a New York-based executive search firm.

Recall this passage from Tom’s Re-imagine! “All you have to do is look! LOOK AT A DAMN PICTURE OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS IN THE ANNUAL REPORT … hopelessly unrepresentative of the market being served … I am not championing “quotas” … I am championing a board whose composition mirrors the market (diversity) and technologies (youth) that represent our biggest challenges.” Do you think Pier 1’s customer base is made up entirely of men? Given that I shop there, I can say with 100% confidence the answer is NO!!! Perhaps I’ll send some enlightened inspiration to Mr. Alex Smith (a copy of Tom’s book perhaps?) so instead of disenfranchising his staff, he can re-imagine a strategy to revitalize Pier 1. I’d love a happy ending …

Darci Riesenhuber posted this on October 17, 2007, in Trend$.
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