Republican leaders appointed white men to head 24 of the 27 committees in the Tennessee General Assembly this legislative session. Committees play a powerful role in deciding which bills will be considered by the House and Senate and ultimately become law.
In Tennessee, women outnumber men 51 percent to 49 percent, but that reality not reflected whatsoever in the legislature’s powerful committee leadership. Only three women will serve as committee chairs for the 111th General Assembly; two in the Senate and one in the House.
Overall, women are serving in 16 percent of the 132 seats in the Tennessee General Assembly; 12 women in the House and nine in the Senate (including the recent appointment of Rosalind Kurita to the Senate to fill an open seat).
Black legislators fare even worse
Not a single black lawmaker will serve as a committee chair. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that African Americans comprise more than 17 percent of Tennessee’s population.
Both the Tennessee Senate and House of Representatives are controlled by Republican supermajorities and Republican leaders control the committee leadership assignments.
Gender diversity in leadership yields better results—in business
Contradictory to the incessant Republican refrain to “run government like a business,” GOP leaders have mostly ignored recent business research that shows an increase of women in leadership improves results. Forbes reports:
For example, a study published by the University of California, Davis last year revealed that big California companies with at least some women at the top performed considerably better than ones with mostly male boards and executives.
Conducted annually, the study surveys the 400 largest public companies headquartered in California regarding the gender diversity of their C-suites and boardrooms. As the project’s homepage explains, the goal is “to drive awareness among corporations, business leaders and policy makers to take meaningful action toward greater female representation.”
Among the 25 firms with the highest percentage of women execs and board members, researchers found that median returns on assets and equity in 2015 were at least 74% higher than among the overall group of companies surveyed [PDF].
More recently, a report from the business management consulting firm McKinsey found that gender and ethnic diversity in leadership increases profitability more than previous studies have shown. Forbes reports again:
In the firm’s previous analysis, companies in the top 25thpercentile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 15% more likely to experience above-average profits. The latest data shows that likelihood has grown to 21%…
But gender is not the only side of the story. Companies with more culturally and ethnically diverse executive teams were 33% more likely to see better-than-average profits. In McKinsey’s previous study—conducted with 2014 numbers—that increase had been 35%. At the board of directors level, more ethnically and cultural diverse companies were 43% more likely to see above-average profits, showing a significant correlation between diversity and performance.