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Still no progress on gender diversity, Catalyst finds

Wednesday, December 14, 2011  
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Women have made no significant gains in leadership roles in the workplace in the last year and are no further along the corporate ladder than they were six years ago, according to the 2011 Catalyst Census: Fortune 500 Women Board Directors, Executive Officers and Top Earners.

In 2011, women held 14.1 percent of executive officer positions at Fortune 500 companies, compared to 14.4 percent the year before. Women held only 7.5 percent of executive officer top-earner positions in 2011, while men accounted for 92.5 percent of top earners. Less than one in five companies had 25 percent or more women executive officers and more than one-quarter had none.

Women held 16.1 percent of board seats in 2011, compared to 15.7 percent in 2010. Less than one-fifth of companies had 25 percent or more women board directors in 2011. About one in 10 had no women serving on their boards. Women of color still held just 3 percent of corporate board seats.

Sustained gender diversity in the boardroom correlates with better corporate performance—and not by just a little, according to another recent Catalyst report, The Bottom Line: Corporate Performance and Women's Representation on Boards (2004-2008). The report indicates companies with three or more women board directors in four of five years outperformed companies with zero women board directors—by 84 percent return on sales, 60 percent return on invested capital and 46 percent return on equity.

"Companies have much to gain by defying assumptions and taking action to advance talented women,” said Catalyst President and CEO Ilene H. Lang. "In light of yet another Catalyst study demonstrating the powerful correlation between increased women’s leadership and better business performance, continued obstacles to progress make no sense.”

Prior Catalyst research revealed that advancing women to leadership positions is good for women and good for business. Companies with more women in top leadership positions practice more corporate philanthropy and are likely to have higher quality corporate social responsibility initiatives.

"Particularly in today’s challenging economy, staying competitive in an increasingly global marketplace requires cultivating fresh perspectives and you don’t get that by perpetuating an ‘all of the same’ leadership model,” Lang said. "Catalyst encourages organizations to step up and ensure that talented employees—regardless of gender—have opportunities to advance and contribute. It’s the smart thing and the right thing to do.”

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