Update from the Economic Front Lines

mgM3FrEOver the last year and half, I’ve spent a good amount of time on Challenging Tertullian commenting on the uneven economic playing field. In this country and around the world, the financial world remains one clearly gripped by the reality of male privilege.

Recently, I came across new data, data that illustrates Tertullian’s impact on the top 300 companies in the world. It’s called the “Global Gender Balance Scorecard,” put out by an organization called 20-first.  You can read the whole analysis here, but I’ll offer several observations.

First, when it comes to executive committees (corporate leaders who report directly to a company’s CEO), in this country it’s a mixed bag. On a positive note, 60% of the top 100 U.S. companies (companies like Dell, Target, Amazon and Chevron) have at least 2 women serving on their executive committees, and 87% have at least 1 woman in these upper-level leadership roles. This represents significant progress when viewed through the lens of history.

On the other hand, since “a growing number of studies show the correlation between gender balance in leadership and improved corporate performance,” we have a ways to go. For example, men hold 83% of executive committee seats nationwide. In addition, two thirds of the 17% of women serving on these committees are doing so in non-line leadership roles. Instead, they serve in staff or support positions such as HR, communications or legal.

So, clearly, in this country we have a long way to go before we reach a place of corporate gender parity (at least at our biggest companies) and, with it, the promised increased productivity and performance.

If the news is grim in the U.S., it’s worse worldwide. In Europe, only 29% of the top 100 European companies have 2 women on their executive committees (these are companies like ING, Siemens, Nokia and Barclays). And, unlike the U.S., where 8 women lead the top 100 companies, in Europe no women are currently serving as CEOs.

And, by contrast, Asia makes Europe look progressive. In the top 100 Asian companies (such as Sony, Toyota, Samsung and Petronas), executive committees are 96% men. In other words, of the 1,099 executive committee leaders in the top 100 Asian companies, only 42 women are serving, and only 15 of them are in line management roles. 15 out of 1099 seats!

As the article notes, “such regional differences demonstrate the part cultural attitudes and biases continue to assert in a business environment that claims to be meritocratic.”

Indeed. As the data for the top 300 global companies shows, the idea that if you are talented and work hard you will succeed in the corporate world appears to be very suspect.

Especially if you are a woman.

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2 responses to “Update from the Economic Front Lines”

  1. Emily L says :

    Perhaps the Fortune 500 companies are not the best examples of gender parity. Very few people (in terms of actual numbers) are actually executives at these places anyway.

    Furthermore, the 20-first study doesn’t account for any other reasons why there might be less women working at this level. Many women move into smaller companies or other positions because they wish to have more flexibility, travel less often, spend more time with their families, etc.

    I’m not saying that male privilege doesn’t play a role here, I’m just saying 1) this is possibly not the best evidence for that and 2) there are other reasons why women might opt out of the often outrageously demanding Fortune 500 type executive tracks.

    • rdixon1365 says :

      Emily, good points here.

      To me Fortune 500 companies are perhaps not the best examples (because the sample size is so limited and because, as you say, there are lots of dynamics to consider), but they are still illustrative, particualrly in the sense that they describe what gender parity (or lack thereof) is like at the proverbial top of the heap. And if we’re ever to get to a place of gender parity it will eventually have to reach to the highest levels.

      Thanks for the comment!

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