October 24, 2011

Women Entering Executive Suites, Board Rooms at Halting Pace

Women on Boards report urges commitment to change by women and companies

Women have surfaced among the top ranks of large companies in recent years, but for more robust growth to occur, both women themselves and companies must step up their commitment to change, according to the 11th annual Women on Boards report, released Friday by Philadelphia-based The Forum of Executive Women.

Research for the report, which was assisted by Deloitte LLP, showed that the proportion of women in executive suites at the Philadelphia region’s 100 largest companies increased by 17% from 2005 to 2010, while the proportion of women directors increased by 4%. More women also joined the ranks of the companies’ “top earners.”

However, the report also showed that last year:

  • Women held just 11% of board seats at the 100 companies included in The Forum’s analysis, a proportion unchanged from the year before.
  • Women held 10.1% of senior executive positions, down from the 11% share in 2009.
  • Women accounted for 9.6% of the top earners in 2010, up from 9% the year before—though 66 of 100 companies counted no women among their top earners, a figure unchanged from 2009.
  • Only six companies had three or more women directors, down from eight the year before.
  • Just six women of color held board seats in 2010, compared to seven in 2009.

 “One thing seems resoundingly clear—that the path to success for a woman leader is one that rarely just ‘happens,’ but rather is a confluence of deliberate, thoughtful acts on the part of both the woman and her employers,” Autumn Bayles, president of The Forum and senior vice president of strategic operations at Tasty Baking Co., said in a statement.

Indeed, The Forum said in the statement, it chose as the theme of the new report “Changing the Face of Leadership: By Chance or By Choice?” This is intended to emphasize that “leaving change to chance hasn’t delivered good enough results; companies must choose to implement a strategy for bringing more women into leadership roles.”

At the same time, it said, “women who aspire to leadership roles cannot leave their careers to chance—they must choose to build the specific skills and experiences needed for top jobs and they must choose to invest time and energy in establishing professional networks both inside and outside their organizations.”

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