Census Reveals Lack of Progress, New Study Offers a Solution 

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by Catalyst

Women’s representation has not grown significantly in corporate boardrooms, executive office suites, or the ranks of companies’ top earners in the last year, according to the 2010 Catalyst Census: Fortune 500 Women Board Directors and the 2010 Catalyst Census: Fortune 500 Women Executive Officers and Top Earners.

“Corporate America needs to get ‘unstuck’ when it comes to advancing women to leadership,” said Ilene H. Lang, Catalyst president and CEO. “This is our fifth report where the annual change in female leadership remained flat. If this trend line represented a patient’s pulse—she’d be dead.”

The 2010 Catalyst Census: Fortune 500 Women Board Directors examines women’s representation in corporate governance at the largest U.S. companies, while the 2010 Catalyst Census: Fortune 500 Women Executive Officers and Top Earners details women’s representation in senior leadership positions. These annual reports provide statistics to gauge women’s advancement into leadership and highlight the gender diversity gap. The results are as follows:

  • Women held 15.7 percent of board seats in 2010 only a 0.5 percentage point gain over the 15.2 percent they held in 2009.
  • In both 2009 and 2010, more than 50 percent of companies had at least two women board directors, yet more than 10 percent had no women serving on their boards. The percentage of companies with three or more women board directors also remained flat.
  • In 2010, women held only14.4 percent of executive officer positions, up from 13.5 percent in 2009.
  • In 2010, women executive officers held only 7.6 percent of the top earner positions, as compared with 6.3 percent in 2009.
  • In 2009, more than two-thirds of companies had at least one woman executive officer; this number did not change in 2010. The same held true for companies with no women executive officers.

While this news does little to reinforce any talk of progress, Catalyst research shows that advancing talented women could provide businesses with an enormous competitive advantage. In fact, our latest global study, Mentoring: Necessary But Insufficient for Advancement, demonstrates that men with mentors are promoted more and compensated at a higher rate, while women with mentors are far less likely to be promoted or paid more as a result of being mentored. But sponsors—mentors who advocate for promotions and highprofile development opportunities—could help narrow the gender leadership gap.

The study finds that men’s mentors tend to hold more senior positions, which means they have the clout necessary to provide sponsorship. Other findings include:

  • Men with mentors had starting salaries in their first post-MBA jobs that were, on average, $9,260 higher than the starting salaries of women with mentors.
  • Men received more promotions than women,and their promotions came with greater salary increases men received 21 percent more in compensation per promotion while women’s compensation increased by only 2 percent per promotion.
  • High-potential women and men with senior-level mentors—those in a position to provide sponsorship—advanced further and earned more than those with less senior mentors, pointing to the need for career support from people with clout. Sponsorship is not a silver bullet, however. Men with senior-level mentors still had greater salary increases than women with senior-level mentors.

“Jumpstarting women’s advancement takes commitment fueled by urgency,” said Ms. Lang. “Our research points to a solution that can narrow the gender leadership gap and supercharge the leadership pool—making corporate America more competitive in the process.”

This Catalyst article was featured on page 120 in the March/April 2011 issue of Profiles in Diversity Journal