Women’s Progress Stalled on Way to Corner Office (But There is Good News)

Even a Google image search can’t find many women CEOs.

The Catalyst 2012 F500 Census, which tracks women in top positions in Fortune 500 companies, is out and the news is, well, there’s not much news to report. The number of women Board Directors and Executive Officers have increased by only half a percentage point or less during the past year.

Last year we posted the results of the 2011 Census, which showed, “Women have made no significant gains in the last year and are no further along the corporate ladder than they were six years ago.”

In 2010 we wrote about the survey, “Women have made no gains in the corporate boardroom or the executive suite in the last year. Nor have women increased their presence among companies’ top earners.”

Although women represent almost half of today’s workforce, women hold just 16.6 percent of board seats (that’s 7 consecutive years of no growth), and just 14.3 percent of Executive Officer positions (3 years of no growth). Women of color hold only 3.3 percent of board seats, indicating no growth. And, as women’s access to the top positions is stalled, so is their access to the top salaries. Women held only 8.1 percent of the top earner slots.

We need more women at the top. More than half of American women who work are breadwinners, contributing at least some part of the necessary income to maintain their households. And forty percent of women are out-earning their husbands. If women aren’t able to access the top earner positions, then it’s families who suffer, not just women.

And businesses suffer too. As Catalyst notes on its blog, “First, companies with more women on their boards, on average, financially outperform those with fewer women–and not by just a little. Second, companies with more women board directors were more likely, five years later, to have more women in the senior management ranks, especially in line positions. And companies with the highest representation of women on their top management teams, on average, reported better financial performance. Third, companies with more women leaders, on average, are linked with higher quality corporate social responsibility initiatives and philanthropy.”

The good news (there is good news!) is this situation can be rectified. With almost half the workforce made up of women, there are plenty of candidates for leadership positions. And, these women are qualifed. Catalyst points out, “If you look at only one potential source of directors—active executive officers of F500 companies—there are over 700 women officers, enough to fill every board seat that comes available in the next year  (with women to spare).” All it would take to jump to 25 percent female representation is  for the Fortune 100 companies to each add one woman to their board in 2013. That’s just good business.




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