Study: Women Still Not Getting to the Top Levels

A recent review of S&P 100 companies shows that women account for only 1 in 10 top paid executives and 1 in 5 board members.

Even though women make up more than half the workforce, they are still significantly underrepresented on corporate boards and in C-level executive positions, according to a new study released by Calvert Investments.

The study, “Examining the Cracks in the Ceiling: A Survey of Corporate Diversity Practices of the S&P 100,” shows that 92 of 100 CEOs represented in the survey are white men.

Other key findings from the S&P 100 report:

  • Women make up only 18 percent of director positions within the S&P 100 and only 8.4 percent of the highest-paid executive positions within the same group of companies
  • More than half—56 companies—in the S&P 100 have no women and/or Black, Latino, Asian or American Indian representation in their highest-paid executive positions, and only 14 companies have two or more diverse officers in these positions

By way of contrast, The DiversityInc Top 10 Companies for Executive Women have a far better track record when it comes to employing and retaining women in the workplace and moving them up the management ranks. For example, these companies tie senior leaders’ compensation to diversity initiatives, as do 76 percent of The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity. View the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list.

Additionally, their boards of directors are 24 percent women, compared with 15 percent as the national average (Catalyst). And senior management (CEO and direct reports and direct reports to those direct reports) are 36 percent women, compared with a national average of 13.5 percent (Catalyst).

The Calvert study evaluated S&P 100 companies according to 10 indicators: EEO Policy, Internal Diversity Initiatives, External Diversity Initiatives, Scope of Diversity Initiatives, Family-Friendly Benefits, EEO-1 Disclosure, Highest Paid Executives, Board Representation, Director Selection Criteria and Overall Corporate Commitment.

“We are very concerned about the fact that women and minorities continue to be underrepresented at the highest levels of management,” says Calvert Group President and CEO Barbara J. Krumsiek of the study. “Without a pipeline of female and minority executives in highly paid, highly responsible positions, it will be very difficult to achieve board diversity, which is critical to strong governance and good management.”

Among some of the other findings in the S&P 100 study:

No disclosure = No accountability

  • The report found that 37 percent of the S&P 100 companies disclose no demographic data on employees, such as race, ethnicity and gender. Only eight companies disclose full EEO-1 data—that is, a full breakdown of the workforce by race and gender across employment categories

Integration and innovation abound

  • According to the report, 30 percent of the S&P 100 companies include some oversight of diversity issues at the board level, and 34 percent of companies include diversity measures within their compensation plans

Corporate commitment remains the “X” factor

  • Overall, 38 percent of the S&P 100 companies demonstrate a robust commitment to diversity, both internally and externally


  • Maybe women need to stop living withing male/pale/stale corporative initiatives to get to some “top” that is nothing more than smoke, glass, dust and mirrors when you get there. Corporate America’s “top” is not our “top.” We need to redraw our way of looking at things and run for a better place in life than they can offer. Corporate America’s “top” is not the fairytale it is cracked up to be; and when you do get there, you find out that it is the top that actually starts all over at the bottom again. And for what? You will discover that you have given up your home and family life and your own dreams for something that not too many people even respect any more, let alone care to have. Get your own business. MomnPop shops are the only thing that ever drives innovation, creativity and spiritual depth of meaning in America.

  • @Guest: 1) There is a lot of research and a few books that have been written about women doing exactly what you suggested. Many recognize the challenges before hitting the C level ranks and bail ship to start their own companies, which is where articles like this fall short.

    2) However, I am a female on the corporate track and a bit of a social psych nerd who pays attention to the research here for my own career development, as an HR professional and as one who has responsibility for diversity initiatives in my company. I’ve been successful with both the mom and pop’s as well as in my current path with a major fortune company featured as one of the top diversity companies. Having been on both sides – my quality of life is much better now than it was in those “innovative” small companies that require you to work as lean as possible, with limited resources and ungodly hours to get the work done because there is no one else to do it! Large companies certainly have their issues – but mom n pops certainly aren’t the “only” drivers of innovation, especially when your corporate staff is spread so thin trying to wear multiple hats vs. being able to dive deeper and specialize. (My company has 8 Nobel prize awards for research and innovation). Further, plenty of the smaller companies are much less sensitive to diversity and just as crass as ever in their treatment of women and minorities, and is why so many of these companies DiversityInc profiles are more successful in breaking these barriers vs. breaking spirits.

  • Just wondering – why is it that women are listed as one category and various communities of color are listed as another category. This creates a situation where women of color fall through the cracks and are not adequately represented. It is important to track how women of color as a group are represented in leadership. Please consider adding at least one statistic in these sort of reports that breaks down how women across ethnicity are impacted or are represented., thanks!

  • I see they only go after diversity when it helps anyone but a white man, like the director.
    Never enforce diversity for white men, even though white men fund all the programs with tax dollars and lack of opportunity.
    Racist misandry at its finest.

    • Luke Visconti

      How foolish. White men occupy the overwhelming and grossly disproportionate majority of positions of power in business, government and religion. Diversity programs in a well-run organization benefit productivity, quality of work done and profit (in corporations).

      Ironically, incompetent people think “diversity” cost them a job or opportunity, when it really was a result of a more level playing field making for a more effective competition. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

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