Is the Ceiling Out of Reach for Women Executives?

Laurel J. Richie

According to the 2010 US Census women represent the majority of the population. Yet their majority is not reflected in the highest offices in the land or commensurate with their percentage of the population, educational attainment or their experience as leaders. 

For instance on May 16, Laurel J. Richie, a veteran marketing executive will become the first African American and only the third president in 15 years of the WNBA. The chief executive role is not a new one for Richie who was the senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Girl Scouts of the USA and spent years with corporations like American Express, Pepperidge Farm and Ogilvy. As great as her accomplishments are, the truth is that there are too few women who lead sports and sports-related associations and organizations

A survey by the Washington based International Women’s Media Foundation says that women in executive media positions account for about 27 percent of media executives. With the New York Times Company President and CEO Janet Robinson and Radio One Inc.’s chairman Cathy Hughes leading the list.  

These observations were made after reading some of the data in the recently released White House report entitled Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being.  It was touted as the first comprehensive federal report on women since 1963. The report illustrates the current status of women in five critical areas: demographic and family changes, education, employment, health, and crime and violence. The statistical data was both revealing and comprehensive.  Anecdotally I knew some of the information had not changed in over four decades but it was still alarming to read. A few of the report highlights include:

·       More women than in the past have never had a child

·       Women are more likely than men to be in poverty

·       While both men and women are earning more education the pay gap persists

·       Female-headed families have the lowest family earnings among all family types.

·       Women have longer life expectancy than men, but the gap is decreasing

·      After decades of significant increases, the labor force participation rate for women has held steady in recent years
·      According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010, 25.4% of chief executives were women, which were up from 2009 but below 2007’s level of 25.6%. Between 2000 and 2007, women chief executive increased by 6.8 percentage points.

Since the founding of America only 35 women have served as the chief executive officer/governor of a US state and currently six women are governors.

While the progress for women executives has been undoubtedly slow, there is no question that those who make it to the corner office are qualified, equipped and capable of pushing the ceiling that has generally been out of reach for women.