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Women still scarce in top spots, Pew finds

Woman at conference table

Women’s share of top leadership jobs across all fields remains small, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of federal securities filings of companies in the Standard & Poor’s Composite 1500 stock index.

Women held just 11.5 percent of S&P 1500 top executive posts, including chief executive officer, chief financial officer and the next three highest paid executive jobs. Just 5.1 percent of CEOs were held by women for companies’ fiscal years ended in 2016 through early 2017.

Thirty-one of the 67 industries that are part of the S&P 1500 had no women at the CEO level. Eight of 77 women CEOs in the S&P 1500 led specialty retailing businesses.

Few women in operations

In roles just below CEO, the research showed, women tended to hold executive jobs in legal and finance, which aren’t the most likely stepping stones to the CEO’s office. Of the women executives who were non-CEOs, approximately 26 percent were CFOs, 24 percent were general counsel or chief legal officer, nearly 15 percent were business unit or segment heads, and about 10 percent headed up human resources. Those with the title of president, chief operating officer or head of operations made up about 7 percent of the mix.

The dearth of women in president, COO or operating unit leadership roles was significant, the analysis found, because boards of directors tend to appoint CEOs who have had operational experience. Those who served in the CFO role were less likely to be chosen for a CEO job.

The sector in which a company operates influences the percentage of women holding executive-level positions, Pew Research Center found. Utilities had the highest percentage of non-CEO female executives (17.3 percent). Other sectors with double-digit percentages of non-CEO women executives included consumer discretionary, which covers makers and sellers of consumer goods such as cars and handbags, plus foodservice, hospitality and broadcasting (16.1 percent); materials (13.6 percent); healthcare (12.6 percent); consumer staples (12.3 percent) and industrial (10.5 percent). Telecommunications registered the lowest level of women CEOs, just 6 percent.