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Slow increase in women on company boards in California

There has been a steady improvement in the number of women directors in California’s top 400 public companies according to research by the UC Davis Graduate School of Management.

California is a major force within the US economy and and the survey includes many global corporate giants such as Apple, Chevron, Intel, Visa, Google, Hewlett-Packard and Oracle — which together have a total stock market value of nearly $5 trillion.

The UC Davis Study of California Women Business Leaders: A Census of Women Directors and Executive Officers, now its 11th year, found that the number of female Chief Executives rose from 14 to 17, for a 21 percent increase this year, and a 55 percent increase since 2006. However,  the 17 female Chief Executives still account for only 4.3 percent of Chief Executives within the 400 companies surveyed. Overall, women hold just 12.3 percent of board seats and highest-paid executive positions—a 0.75 percentage point increase over last year.

Since 2006, when the study began tracking the largest 400 companies in California, the share of female directors has risen by 4.4 percentage points — incremental, but a 50 percent increase.
he number of companies with no women in director and highest-paid executive positions dropped to 92, a new low, below 100 for the first time. This is a 33 percent decrease since 2010, showing more women are being appointed to existing or new board seats and executive positions.

A majority of the companies still have no women among their highest-paid executives. The percentage of women who are reported to be highest-paid executives has risen to 10.5 percent in 2015 from 7.8 percent in 2007, the first year those data were collected, for a 35 percent increase over that time.
The report produces a ranking of the 25 companies with the highest percentage of women leaders. With 57 percent top female leaders, Williams-Sonoma Inc. has the highest percentage since the study began. Including CEO Laura Alber, four of Williams-Sonoma’s five highest-paid executives are women, and the company has four women on its nine-person board. Eleven of the study’s top 25 firms have a female Chief Executive.

Technology companies have shown great improvement in their promotion of women. Excluding utilities, which are regulated, the industry with the highest percentage of women directors is technology software. Five Silicon Valley companies made the top 25 on the UC Davis list. (Arista Networks Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., NETGEAR Inc., Verifone Systems Inc., and Yahoo! Inc.). However, 30 Silicon Valley companies still have no female highest-paid executives and board directors.

Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum’s 2015 Global Gender Gap Survey which measures gender equality across 145 countries in respect of  health, education, economic opportunity and politics has found that the overall gap between men and women has closed by only 4% in the past 10 years, with the economic gap closing by just 3%, suggesting it will take another 118 years to close this gap completely. The Nordic countries still dominate the Global Gender Gap Index – with Iceland ranked at the top. Ireland is the highest placed non-Nordic country, ranking 5th.

When economic participation and opportunity are considered separately 14 countries, including four from Sub-Saharan Africa and five from Europe and Central Asia, have closed more than 80% of the gender gap. Norway, Barbados, Burundi, Sweden and Iceland occupy the top five spots on this subindex. Over 80% of countries have made absolute progress on labour force participation with Nepal experiencing the largest increase. Other countries which have shown particular strong growth on this indicator include Botswana, Nigeria, Spain, Nicaragua, South Africa and Lesotho. The largest absolute gains on women in senior roles – legislator, senior official and manager positions – have come from Colombia, Ghana and France, while on high-skilled roles in general – professional and technical workers – Lesotho, Albania and Guatemala made the most absolute progress.

What do you think?