27% of Fortune 500 Companies Have No Women Executives

Women matter.

At least, they do according to McKinsey & Company.


But it appears that many Fortune 500 companies are not as focused on promoting women to leadership roles as McKinsey aspires to be. A new report by Catalyst, in conjunction with research partners including Bloomberg, Credit Suisse, Dell Inc., and IBM Corporation, details how many women serve on corporate boards or as directors to "gauge women’s advancement into leadership" while highlighting "the gender diversity gap." In 2012, women occupied 16.6% of Fortune 500 company board seats, while women of color held 3.3% of all seats.

Catalyst focuses on Fortune 500 companies "not only because these are the largest companies by revenue in the United States each year, but also because they are widely recognized as the most powerful and influential businesses." The report is designed to provide accurate, comparable statistics for companies to better evaluate women's progress within the private sector as a whole and within individual companies.

138 of the 500 companies have no women serving as executive officers, a slight increase from 27.4% in 2011 to 27.8% in 2012. These include companies like Bed, Bath & Beyond, Capital One Financial, Comcast, Dollar Tree, Berkshire Hathaway, Exxon Mobil, General Mills, Kellog, and Sears Holding. 

When it comes to directorship, women are best represented in real estate and rental and leasing and finance and insurance, making up 19% of all board directors. The number of women executive officers is highest in public administration (20%), followed by finance and insurance (18.6%) and retail trade (17.9%).

Catalyst also breaks down women's representation by region.


 

The lack of women in leadership at Fortune 500 companies is a not just a problem for these companies: It's a problem for the economy as a whole. Without women, McKinsey notes, the economy would by 25% smaller; women hold almost half of all jobs in America. But simply holding jobs is not enough. For companies to succeed, they must optimize productivity and opportunity for their workers — and that means promoting women to leadership roles.

As McKinsey's Organizational Health Index (OHI) notes, "companies with three or more women in top positions (executive committee and higher) scored higher than their peers. OHI measures nine factors, ranging from external orientation to coordination and control, that are linked to well-functioning organizations. Companies that score highly on all nine metrics of organizational health have also shown superior financial performance." In other words, more women in leadership is better for a company's bottom line.

McKinsey suggests that to really tap into women's full economic potential, there is a "need for systemic, organizational change. Companies that aspire to achieve sustained diversity balance must choose to transform their cultures. Management needs a powerful reason to believe such as the potential competitive and economic advantage from retaining the best talent." And collecting data about how companies are doing in this regard, as Catalyst does, is the first step.

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Sam Meier

Samantha Meier serves as the Identities editor at PolicyMic, where she writes on activism, gender, and new media. Sam was profiled in the New York Times for co-founding Sex Week at Harvard, and is currently working on a book about women and underground comix. Originally from Flagstaff, Arizona, she currently lives in New York.

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