print Print    Share Share  

Empowering Women in Business

What's Wrong with this Picture?

With 7 out of 10 women age 25 to 54 in the labor force today, women make up nearly half of all paid workers. Women now comprise 45.4% of employed workers, compared to 38% in 1970. Roughly two-thirds of all new entrants in the workforce from now through the year 1100 will be women, and the labor force participation rates of women will reach over 80% by 1995.

Yet, women continue to be highly segregated in the workforce. Ninety-nine percent of secretaries are women, as are 93% of bookkeepers, 93% of nurses, and 82% of administrative/clerical support workers. Women are the majority of textile workers (91%) and housekeepers (82%).

Job segregation translates into lower earnings for women. Full-time employed women still earn considerably less than men. The average man with a high school education working full- time earns more than the average woman fulltime worker with a college degree, and the situation is even worse for African-American, Asian-American, and Latina women.

Executive Suites Lack Women

Although women comprise 40% of all executive, management, and administrative positions (up from 24% in 1976), they remain confined mostly to the middle and lower ranks, and the senior levels of management are almost exclusively male domains. A 1990 study of the top Fortune 500 companies by Mary Ann Von Glinow of the University of Southern California, showed that women were only 2.6% of corporate officers (the vice presidential level up). Of the Fortune Service 500, only 4.3% of corporate officers were women -- even though women are 61% of all service workers.

More shocking is that these numbers have shown very little improvement in the 25 years that these statistics have been tracked (University of Michigan, Korn/Ferry International). This means that at the current rate of increase, it will be 475 years - or not until the year 2466 before women reach equality with men in the executive suite.

Women Absent on Corporate Boards

The story is not much better on corporate boards:only 4.5% of the Fortune 500 industrial directorships are held by women. On Fortune Service 500 companies, 5.6% of corporate directors are women. The rate of increase is so slow that parity with men on corporate board will not be achieved until the year 2116 - or for 125 years.

Recently published studies purport to show that women are making significant gains on corporate boards: a 1988 Korn/Ferry survey reported that 52.8% of major U.S. corporations had women board members, up from the 42.9% in 1986. But only 25% of the Fortune 1000 companies in 1986 had more than one woman on their board, according to the Wall Street Journal. In fact, there is such a huge overlap among women sitting on corporate boards, that just 39 directors account for 33% of the 652 Fortune 1000 directorships held by women.

In 1980, only one woman held the rank of CEO of a Fortune 500* company. She came into the top management by inheriting the company from her father and husband. In 1985, this executive was joined by a second woman who reached the top - by founding the company she headed. Today, there is again only one woman at the top of a Fortune 500 company.

For African-American, Asian-American and Latina women, the situation at the top is even worse. A 1986 survey by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (as reported in Morrison and Von Glinow) showed that between 1974 and 1984, the percentage of African-American women executives grew at a snail's pace of 0.7% of the total, to 1.7%. By comparison, African-American and Latina women constitute about 7% of the total workforce.

The pay gap exists even at the executive level: a May 1987 report by Nation's Business showed that "women at the vice-presidential levels and above earn 42% less than their male peers." According to a 1984 Wall Street Journal/Gallup poll, 70% of executive women believe they are "paid less than men of equal ability."

Women Under-Represented in Business Education

Women have done somewhat better in gaining access to a business education: in 1970, women comprised 3.5% of all MBA graduates; whereas in 1989, 33.6% of the MBA graduates were women. Women received 46.7% of all bachelors degrees in business yet only 26.6% of the doctorates. At the most prestigious business graduate schools - Harvard, Columbia, Mihigan, M.I.T. - women make up a smaller percentage of the student body.

Despite the changes in the student body, the faculty and administration of business schools remain predominantly white and male, not unlike corporate management where women are grossly under-represented. Women account for only 4% of business school deans and there are no women presidents.

*Note: The Fortune 500 represents the largest industrial corporations. The Fortune Service 500 is separate listing including only the service industries such as retailing, banking, insurance, and finance.