Gender Equality in the Upper Ranks

October 23, 2015

Gender Equality in the Upper Ranks

The universe of female executives and CEOs is very small: Just 5% of U.S. FORTUNE 500 and 4% of FTSE companies are run by women. On a global basis, just 9% of CEOs and managing directors are women. 

We at Weber Shandwick just recently released our own information on the topic. We consider our data unique because it is not just US-based (S&P500) or an estimation from a survey among executives. We measured the number of women in senior management teams in the largest 100 companies in the world and found that only 12.5% of senior management teams have a woman, not exactly gender-balanced (50/50). A startling 29% have no women on their teams and unfortunately 0% (ZERO) are gender balanced. In my first draft of how we should communicate our Index results, I thought to myself, when do you ever see a 0% finding in a headline? We chose to focus instead on the 12.5%. Since we are working on the full Global Fortune 500 and aim to release before the end of the year, we will see if those numbers shift a bit. But probably not by much, I hate to say.

Because we anticipate that gender equality is going to increasingly become a prime driver of corporate reputation, we wanted to know how people who run global companies view this imbalance and how they intend to move forward.

The report — Gender Equality in the Executive Ranks: A Paradox — The Journey to 2030 — reveals significant push factors driving momentum for women’s advancement alongside some troubling pull factors that are impeding its ascent. As seen in the graphic above, these are the push and pull forces that we learned from global C-Level executives surveyed. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) conducted the research. Additionally, the report includes information on approaches that companies who are making gender equality a priority (30%) are taking. We call them Gender-Forward Pioneers (GFPs) and describe what their best practices.

You might ask, what’s with the 2030? That is the year that the majority (73%) of global executives believe that gender equality in the C-Suite will be achieved. But here is the paradox…most C-level executives (56%) report that their company doesn’t have specific goals in place for achieving such an outcome, and only 39% of C-level executives report gender diversity in senior management as a high business priority, ranking seventh among 10 priorities. Gender equality in the next 15 years! I don’t exactly think so but if the push forces collide in a big way, I could be wrong. We might get closer.

Let me know what you think of the report.


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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of corporate and CEO reputations.

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