History of Low Numbers

With the recent announcement that Debra Reed is retiring as CEO of Sempra Energy and being replaced by Jeffrey Martin, there will be only two women CEOs among the region’s 50 largest public companies. How that compares with 10, 20 and 30 years ago:

1988

Kim Fletcher

Home Federal Savings & Loan Association

1998

None

2008

Linda Lang

Jack in the Box Inc.

Susan Nowakowski

AMN Healthcare Services Inc.

Cathy Taylor

Phoenix Footwear Group Inc.

Caren Mason

Quidel Corp.

2018

Debra Reed

Sempra Energy

Helen Torley

Halozyme Therapeuitics Inc.

Susan Salka

AMN Healthcare

Source: San Diego Business Journal Book of Lists

— Word this month that Debra Reed will soon retire as president and CEO of Sempra Energy is being received by local business leaders as good or not depending on how they view progress toward gender diversity in the top echelons of corporate leadership.

Reed, who at age 61 has spent four decades at the San Diego-based energy services holding company, is by all accounts a successful executive responsible for building shareholder value while also serving as a role model and mentor to local businesswomen.

Where observers disagree is whether her stepping down represents a setback to the cause of increasing women’s representation in executive leadership — or a timely opportunity to celebrate the achievements of one of San Diego’s most prominent female CEOs.

“We’re losing a great leader, but I think more than that, despite all the progress being made about women in leadership, it just appears more top women are disappearing from top leadership in corporate America,” said Debra Rosen, president and CEO of North San Diego Business Chamber, which puts on an annual, week-long series of events intended to help women overcome workplace obstacles. Rosen added she wishes Reed well.

Making Strides?

Others view Reed’s success as evidence women are indeed making strides toward greater gender equity.

“I don’t know if it’s a vacuum that she leaves as much as the impact she was able to make in such a visible leadership role in such a well-respected, large company in San Diego,” said Carisa Wisniewski, partner in charge at Moss Adams LLP’s San Diego office. Reed’s career “makes you realize how impactful having diverse leadership really can be.”

On the heels of Sempra’s largest acquisition, Dallas-based Oncor Electric Delivery Co., the San Diego company announced March 12 that Reed will step down May 1, then stay on as executive chairwoman until Dec. 1. She has led the company since 2011.

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