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Women still not scaling the corporate ladder

Thursday, December 16, 2010  
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There were no noteworthy gains in representation of women in Fortune 500 corporate boardrooms, executive office suites or ranks of top earners in 2010, according to the "2010 Catalyst Census: Fortune 500 Women Board Directors” and the "2010 Catalyst Census: Fortune 500 Women Executive Officers and Top Earners” released Dec. 13. 

Women held 15.7 percent of board seats in 2010 -- a slight 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 only 14.4 percent of executive officer positions, up less than 1 percent from 13.5 percent in 2009, Catalyst reported. These women executive officers held only 7.6 percent of the top earner positions, compared with 6.3 percent in 2009.

In 2009, more than two-thirds of the Fortune 500 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.

"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.”

Jumpstarting women's advancement takes commitment fueled by urgency, Lang added. While men with mentors are promoted more and compensated at a higher rate, women with mentors are far less likely to be promoted or paid more as a result of being mentored, according to Catalyst’s latest global study "Mentoring: Necessary But Insufficient for Advancement.”

Mentors of men tend to hold more senior positions, which means they have the clout necessary to provide sponsorship. Sponsors -- mentors who advocate for promotions and high-profile development opportunities -- could help narrow the gender leadership gap, according to the study.

As it stands, 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, with men receiving 21 percent more in compensation per promotion as 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.

Even so, sponsorship is not a silver bullet, however, the study concluded. Men with senior-level mentors still had greater salary increases than women with senior-level mentors.


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