Poll may help Commonwealth Institute’s chief get more women in the C-suites

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This article was originally published in The Boston Globe.

Efforts to bring more women into the C-suite have been slow to gain traction in Massachusetts. Elizabeth Hailer is hoping to step up the pace a bit.

To some extent, that’s part of her job description: Hailer became executive director of the Commonwealth Institute, a nonprofit that provides career assistance for women, a little over a year ago.

But she’s taking that role to a new level by launching what she calls the state’s first statewide corporate leadership development survey for women’s careers. So far, about 100 companies have responded, and she expects many more to be returned before the window closes later this month.

The research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey is conducting the confidential, 20-minute poll. Hailer has help from key sponsors that include American Tower, DentaQuest, Liberty Mutual, the law firm Bowditch & Dewey, and former Boston Fed chief Cathy Minehan.

The poll asks various questions aimed at figuring out what companies are doing to develop, retain, and promote women.

“The most important thing is to take a snapshot of where we are, what needs to be done going forward, and how we can best move the pipeline of women leaders,” Hailer says.

Hailer has also been expanding her group’s membership — the total is approaching 500 individuals and businesses, up 25 percent from a year ago — and this research project should help toward that end. When the institute was started two decades ago, it was essentially a networking group for female CEOs. The mission has since broadened to encompass a variety of executives and entrepreneurs, including the next generation of women leaders.

“A lot of people still think it’s [only] for women CEOs, they can’t get in, or it’s too exclusive,” Hailer says.

“That’s how it started. But the membership we offer today is very different than what we offered 20 years ago.”

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