Every year, Catalyst unveils its annual Fortune 500 Census. And every year we try to find a new headline for the same old news. This year it’s, “Still No Progress After Years of No Progress.” Last year it was, “No Change for Women in Top Leadership.” In 2011, “Women’s Leadership” was “Still Stalled in Corporate America.” And as of 2010, women were “Still Not Scaling the Corporate Ladder.”
This year’s Catalyst Fortune 500 Census reveals that women held 16.9% of F500 board seats and 14.6% of executive officer positions in 2013—no significant change since 2012. They held 8.1% of executive officer top earner positions—exactly the same as last year. And women of color held just 3.2% of all board seats.
How can this be?
Just as worldwide efforts to expand gender diversity are heating up, progress for U.S. women in business is at a standstill. Action is being taken around the globe to increase gender diversity in the corporate world, and the United States can’t afford to be left behind:
• Following the UK’s setting of voluntary targets in 2011, women’s representation on FTSE100 boards has risen from 12.5% to nearly 19% in just two years.
• After passing quota legislation in January 2011, women’s representation on boards in France grew from 12.7% in 2011 to 18.3% in 2013.
• Canada’s Ontario Securities Commission has proposed adopting a “comply or explain” approach to diversity on boards and in executive ranks.
• In Germany, companies must begin setting “binding goals” for increasing women’s representation on boards, management, and executive positions in 2015. Starting in 2016, 30% of publicly traded companies’ non-executive board seats will be allotted to women.
The good news is that we know US businesses can catch up—and it’s easier than it looks.
One-fifth of F500 companies have 25% or more women executive officers. These companies aren’t just talking about advancing women; they’re showing other companies how to do it. And they’re reaping the significant benefits of gender-diverse leadership in the process.
Catalyst offers several key resources to aid companies in capitalizing on women’s talents:
• A wide array of research, tools, and replicable practices, including our annual F500 Census and biennial FP500 Census.
• The Catalyst Corporate Board Resource, which connects qualified women to opportunities for board service. CEOs of Catalyst member companies personally sponsor women executives they feel are ready for board service by adding them to our directory.
It’s time for US companies to stop seeing women’s exclusion from corporate leadership as a challenge. Scaling Mt. Everest is a challenge; increasing the presence of qualified women on boards and in executive leadership has never been easier. Let’s write a new headline in 2014: “What Glass Ceiling?”
Click here to learn more about the Catalyst Fortune 500 Census.