Women Moving Slowly Up Corporate Ladder
By George Anderson
Women may have come a long way but they still have quite a ways to go when it comes to moving up the corporate ladder in Fortune 500 companies.
According to a study by a non-profit group devoted to expanding opportunities for women in business, women represented a small minority of corporate officer positions (16.4 percent)
in 2005. Only eight Fortune 500 companies had women CEOs and none of the top 100 had a woman in the role of chief executive.
Ilene Lang, president of Catalyst, the organization that conducted the study, it should serve as “a wake-up call to business leaders.”
In a press release to announce the study’s findings, Ms. Lang said, “Although the total number of corporate officer positions has declined since 1995 and women’s representation
has proportionately increased a bit, the continuing gender gap in senior leadership, especially among women of color, demonstrates a persistent uneven playing field.” (Women of
color held just 1.7 percent of corporate officer positions in Fortune 500 companies.)
Some fields of business with large representation of women in the workforce showed a higher level of top executives who were female. Among these were companies in the retailing
“Smart companies know that developing and retaining top talent yields solid results,” said Ms. Lang. “Women have the education, expertise, experience, and ambition to advance
to these top positions in much greater numbers. However, this census reveals that some companies have yet to understand the compelling business case for diversity and women’s
advancement or to take meaningful steps to develop and retain women leaders.”
According to Catalyst, greater representation of women in top positions has a direct correlation to bottom line results. Companies with the highest percentage of female corporate
officers delivered a 35.1 percent higher return on equity than those at the other end of the spectrum
“Leading by example, CEOs and upper management can effect tremendous change. The first step is to recognize the strategic business case for diversity and inclusion so that everyone
grasps the opportunity and understands what’s at stake,” said Ms. Lang. “Companies that proactively and successfully harness all their talent will sustain significant advantages
over competitors that don’t.”
Discussion Question: What do you see as the primary factors behind the low representation of women in corporate officer positions within large U.S. businesses?
One reason the study cited as being behind the lack of women in corporate officer positions were the areas of the business from which they come. According
to Catalyst, 71 percent of women came up through organizations in departments such as human resources and public relations, while only 29 percent worked in jobs such as sales
and business operations.
- Rate of Women’s Advancement to Top Corporate Officer Positions
Slow, New Catalyst Tenth Anniversary Census Reveals – Catalyst
- The 2005 Catalyst Census of Women Corporate Officers and Top Earners of the Fortune 500