The #MeToo movement has put women in the spotlight, but it hasn’t pushed them into the C-suite.
“We get a lot of women in at the entry-level positions. As you get to middle management, women rise to those positions, and then that’s the childbearing years,” she told the Freakonomics radio show in February. “And when they have children, it’s difficult to balance having children, your career, your marriage, and be a high potential out-performer who’s going to grow in the company.”
“So it starts to thin out as you move up,” she added. “We have to solve for that.”
Indeed, women accounted for 18% of chief executive officer replacements in 2017, unchanged from the year before, according to recent data from global outplacement consultancy firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. The rate of women replacement CEOs is, however, up from 15.3% in 2015. Just 193 women CEOs accounted for 1,043 recorded replacements.
CEOs at 11 companies stepped down because of sexual misconduct allegations last year (all were men), and of the seven companies that named a replacement, four chose women the report added. Women currently hold just 27 (5.4%) of CEO positions at those S&P 500 companies, according to Catalyst, a nonprofit that aims to build workplaces that are supportive of and welcoming for women. Here’s a list.
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“Bad times tend to be better for women to be given a chance to be CEOs,” said Ariane Hegewisch, program director of employment and earnings at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. “When a company isn’t doing well and everyone shies away from it, companies think ‘we’ve tried the usual, now let’s give an outsider a chance.’” Taking the helm during tumultuous times is often riskier for person’s career, she added. (Case in point: Marissa Mayer’s five-year tenure as Yahoo! CEO.)
The standstill in hiring female CEOs comes as women worldwide are sharing stories of how sexual harassment and assault has shaped their working lives, in some cases stopping their careers completely. Having more women leading companies is critical for fostering a culture of inclusiveness and safety, and also an atmosphere where other women can be promoted and receive equal pay for equal work. Women are paid around 83 cents on the dollar compared to men.
There has been significant progress made
Some industries are promoting more women into the C-suite, according to Challenger & Gray. The legal industry saw the highest rate of women replacements at CEO level, at 50%, followed by government and non-profit (42%) and education (33%). There were no women replacements in the automotive, chemical, commodities or telecommunications industries.
Women face many hurdles in being promoted internally. Company superiors Corporate leaders still don’t see both genders as equal, and women CEOs are twice as likely to have come from outside a company than chosen internally, according to a Harvard Business Review report, which looked at 2,000 top performing companies. The study found 1.5% — or 29 — of those CEOs were women.
Why are there not more women CEOs?
There’s also a stigma around female leadership. Females negotiating for a promotion are also labeled as bossy, aggressive or intimidating, according to a third of respondents in a 2016 Lean In/McKinsey & Company survey of 34,000 employees at 132 companies. Race is a factor too, with the rate of promotion for white women at 7.4%, 6% for Latinas, 5.8% for Asians and 4.9% for African-Americans.
But studies, such as this 2013 report from the University of California, Berkeley, also back up Nooyi’s opinions on the dearth of women CEOs. Having children also affects women more than men, because of the time they take off to prepare, give birth and then care for the child or children, experts say. The time away from the workplace, known as the “motherhood penalty,” can mean missed opportunities, shifting job responsibilities and lower earnings.
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