Still Hitting The Glass Ceiling

Glance at the cover of a magazine, and there's a new entertainment industry executive--a woman. Flip through the business pages of the newspaper, and there's a profile of a new software executive--a woman. It's not unusual, or even remarkable, anymore. But anecdotal evidence too often obscures the numerical. Are there more women in executive positions? Yes. Are masses of women shattering the glass ceiling? No. There's progress, but it's not happening nearly fast enough.

That's the conclusion reached on reviewing the latest data on women in executive positions gathered by Catalyst, a New York-based nonprofit group dedicated to tracking the advancement of women in the workplace. In a survey of the 500 largest companies, Catalyst found that among corporate officers, which include chief executive officers, chief operating officers, presidents, executive vice-presidents, and vice-presidents, only 1 in 10 is a woman. That represents a significant 33% gain over the previous year, but it's an increase off an awfully small base.

Even more troubling, only a handful of companies have worked to promote women. Fully 105 of the top 500 companies have no women officers in their ranks. Only 28 can boast that more than a quarter of their corporate officers are women. And when companies do promote women, it is often into executive positions in the human resources, corporate affairs, and legal departments, depriving women of experience in profit-and-loss line positions. It's imperative that Corporate America move more aggressively to promote women into the executive ranks--not just to enhance diversity, but to make effective use of a vitally important resource, women in the workplace.

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