Shatterproof Glass Ceiling

Too few women man corner offices, says a new study

The good news: In a few places, women managers are getting ahead. At PaineWebber, Gap, Merck, and elsewhere, more than a quarter of corporate officers are women, as are 4 of Pitney Bowes Inc.'s top 10 executives. Women account for 20% of senior managers at savings institutions, publishers, and food-service operators.

The bad news: Good news is pretty scarce. Women comprise 46% of the workforce but have yet to break into the top ranks in significant numbers. A study released on Oct. 17 by the nonprofit Catalyst notes that just 1 in 10 of the most senior jobs at the 500 largest U.S. companies are held by women. Narrow the criteria to the more rarefied ranks of chairman, CEO, president, and executive vice-president, and the number of women drops to 2.4%.

EXCEPTIONAL. Catalyst welcomes a 33% increase in female representation among corporate officers between 1994 and 1995 but stops short of calling it a trend. Rather, it says, the playing field in business remains far from level. Indeed, 105 companies have no women corporate officers. "On the whole, top corporate leadership still eludes women," says Catalyst President Sheila W. Wellington.

Most women advance through traditionally female channels--human resources, corporate affairs, or legal--that rarely lead to the top. Just 27% of female officers have revenue-generating responsibility. So women aren't taking home the biggest paychecks. Of the 2,500 top-earning executives, just 50 are women. What a surprise.

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