NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)–For all the success that women have enjoyed in the corporate world and in their own businesses over the years, hard data indicates that true gender equality remains a far off goal. The prestigious Committee of 200, a 20-year-old network of top women entrepreneurs and corporate leaders, recently completed its first-ever Business Leadership Index. It showed how businesswomen fared in relation to men on a 10-point scale, with 10 representing parity with men. In an aggregate of 10 separate benchmarks, women scored an overall 3.95.
The study, released in January, also predicted how long it would take before women achieved parity. These benchmarks, which included comparing men to women in the areas of board membership of Fortune 500 companies, access to venture-capital funding, company size, enrollment in graduate business programs and gender wage gap, each had their own index numbers as well.
"The numbers show the lack of progress. Those women who have done something wonderful and have managed to break through the glass ceiling are few and far between," says Anna Lloyd, president of the committee.
The Chicago-based organization has 441 members who either own businesses with at least $15 million in annual sales or are corporate executives who head divisions or companies with revenues of at least $250 million. An outside research firm gathered the data, using a variety of sources that included the U.S. Census Bureau.
Some areas will take longer for women to achieve parity in than others, according to the committee’s findings. In the area of venture-capital funding, women only achieved a 1.10 on the Business Leadership Index scale. Another low-scoring category was corporate officer positions at Fortune 500 companies, coming in at only 2.78 on the scale. Women will reach only the halfway mark on the journey to parity between 2018 and 2020, the study predicts.
Women achieved a 7.60 score on the gender wage-gap category, making it the highest-scoring benchmark. Yet even at that rate, the study says this benchmark will still take 30 years to reach parity with that of men. Enrollment in graduate business programs for women had a score of 6.60, making it two-thirds on the way to parity. Business schools need to be more aggressive in recruiting women and companies should encourage their female employees to pursue these credentials that often open doors to lucrative careers, the report notes.
Businesswomen Praise Study
Women business leaders say the numbers give even greater validity to the notion that much more needs to be done to create equality among the sexes in corporate America.
These numbers show that women are not yet in the top ranks in the boardrooms and in the chief executive offices of publicly traded companies, notes Patty DeDominic, president and chief executive officer of PDQ Personnel Services, a Los Angeles company with 40 employees and annual revenues of $25 million. DeDominic has been a member of the committee for 10 years.
She adds: "Women need to state their claim, whether it’s going after the higher-level jobs they want or reaching out to participate in boards."
Changing the Status Quo
Lloyd of the Committee of 200 says female entrepreneurs need to pay more attention to the organizations and networks they belong to in order to increase their visibility in the business community and improve profits. Older, more established women in corporate America should look to mentor younger women, she says. Younger women who are unsure of their status in their companies and want to rise beyond middle management should ask their bosses if they are properly positioned to be on an executive track.
The study also suggests that women in high positions insist that women be a part of every team in their companies and that corporate officers should be held accountable for succession plans that include women. It encourages young women to seek out mentors and be more willing to take career risks.
In the area of venture-capital funding, women need to look to experts who can critique their presentations to lending institutions, so they can obtain the financing they need, Lloyd says. And since this kind of funding is usually geared toward high-tech startups, educators should work to increase young girls’ interests in math and science and encourage them to feel comfortable in these fields, says Agnieszka Winkler, a Committee of 200 board member and president of AMW Consulting, a San Francisco marketing resource-management company.
"Women don’t have a lot of role models in the area of technology," Winkler says. "For instance, there are very few female deans of engineering schools at major universities."
In the area of putting women on board seats, search firms need to look beyond just chief executive officers to find potential board members, Winkler says. This could allow for more women in influential, powerful positions–although not at the most senior level–to gain access to the boardroom.
Companies should realize that they can improve their profits by putting women on their boards, adds Phyllis Hill Slater, a small-business activist and president of Hill Slater, Inc., a Great Neck, N.Y., engineering and architectural-support firm.
"Women tend to make more of the buying decisions in households, versus their male counterparts," says Hill Slater, who was not involved in the study. "Companies will do better in terms of sales if they have female board members and women in high positions who can help them direct their marketing efforts to this portion of the buying population."
Tooting Our Own Horns
"A woman who really wants to attain a high-level office in the corporate world must be strong and outspoken enough to say she wants to run the business and be a bottom-line employee," says Ann Fudge, former president of Maxwell House and Post divisions for Kraft Foods, who was quoted in the study. "This means thinking more in terms of finance and less in terms of the jobs women have historically migrated to, like support staff."
In order for women to move ahead in business, they ultimately need to be their own best salesperson.
"Women can’t feel embarrassed to toot their own horn. Men have been doing this very well for quite a long time," Winkler says.
Laura Koss-Feder is a freelance business writer who has been published in The New York Times, Money, Business Week, Time, Newsday, Investor’s Business Daily, and MSNBC.com.
For more information:
The Committee of 200:
"The Committee of 200 Releases First-ever Study Measuring Women’s Clout in the Business World:
The C200 Business Leadership Index":