By Mai Browne
How are women leaders doing in academia, medicine and other sectors of the U.S. economy?
The University of Denver’s Colorado Women’s College (CWC) addressed this question in a new study that analyzes the representation of women in top positions across 14 sectors. Researchers found that, on average, women hold only 20 percent of senior roles, earn less than their male counterparts, and in many sectors, outperform them as well. The report also suggests actions organizations and individuals can take to increase representation of women in senior leadership.
Titled “Benchmarking Women’s Leadership in the United States,” the CWC study builds on a groundbreaking survey conducted in 2009 by The White House Project, the nonpartisan organization focused on advancing women’s leadership. When The White House Project closed down in 2012, CWC took on the task of updating the previous survey, which explored only 10 sectors. The new report shows that since the last study, the number of women in leadership positions, across sectors, has essentially remained flat, reflecting slight increases as well as decreases.
About the Study
The CWC report expands the scope of research –examining 14 sectors, and drawing comparisons between the prevalence of women leaders and the performance of their organizations or sectors. It also correlates female leadership with individual achievement, as measured by awards, grants received, return on investment and other accomplishments. The study gathers the latest data from each sector, and focuses on the top echelon of each industry, including the number of female senior leaders in the top 10 organizations and businesses.
“One of the most interesting findings from the data is that women, on average, comprise a higher percentage of senior leaders among Fortune 10 companies than among Fortune 500 companies,” said Tiffani Lennon, lead researcher of the study and chair of the Law and Society Department at CWC.
Lennon continued, “Other studies have found that women tend to lead smaller organizations and institutions, suggesting that women lack presence in the largest, most influential organizations in the U.S. Our study did not find this to be the truth in nearly all 14 sectors. There was a higher percentage of female leaders in the top echelon, although significant disparity in compensation still existed between women and men.”
She also explained, “My team and I also examined industry-specific performance metrics, such as sales, revenue, size, and profitability. While there may exist several ways to measure performance, we found, by using industry standards, that women are outperforming men. To illustrate, 60% of the bestselling authors are women; 55% of female academicians earn national research awards and grants, and yet comprise only 28% of research professors. While I did not expect to find that women are outperforming men, for a variety of reasons it makes a good deal of sense. For women to be considered for top positions it is not enough for them to perform as well as their male counterparts; women must perform better.”
The study found this trend to be particularly striking in the hedge fund industry, where women in senior management have been performing at much higher proportional rates than men: From 2000 – 2009, hedge funds predominantly managed by women produced an average return of 9.06 percent, compared to the broader composite of hedge funds, which produced an average return rate of 5.82 percent. That being said, in 2011, women managed a mere 3.3 percent of the 9,000 hedge funds in the United States.
Key Numbers from the Study:
Higher Education. Women earned more than 56 percent of the field’s most prestigious awards in 2012. In spite of this record, women, on average, hold only 29 percent of tenure-track positions at doctoral institutions.
K-12 Education. Women hold 75 percent of teaching positions but only 30 percent of educational leadership roles. More women teach math and science; more men teach physical education and social studies. Women superintendents earn just 81 percent of what men earn in that job.
Publishing. In 2012, women produced 63 percent of bestselling books, yet they earned about 40 percent of industry earnings
Politics and government. Less than one-third of federal judges are women. Women hold 18 percent of seats in the 2013 Congress. But they’re more productive than the men, cosponsoring about 26 more bills per Congressional session and bringing about 9 percent more federal spending to their districts.
Business and Finance. One of the greatest discrepancies occurred in the hedge fund industry. As we noted earlier, from 2000-2009, hedge funds managed by women consistently outperformed the industry as a whole. Yet today, women manage only about 3 percent of the nation’s 9,000 hedge funds.
Fortune 500 Companies: In 2013, women held 51 percent of jobs, 51 percent of professional and managerial positions but only 15 percent of executive positions in Fortune 500 companies and 13 percent of the seats on Fortune 500 boards of directors.
Law. In 2012, women comprised 47 percent of law school graduates, 15 percent of law firm equity partners and 5 percent of managing partners. Women represented 60 percent of law school assistants and associate deans, but only 26 percent of deans.
Medicine. The number of women physicians has doubled in the last 20 years. At not-for-profit hospitals with the highest gross revenues, women CEOs earned 57 percent as much as male CEOs. Among winners of a highly competitive research grant, women earned $360,000 less than men over a 30-year career.
Technology. Of the top 10 technology companies in the U.S., three had female CEOs in 2012. These 10 companies had an average of 16.6 percent of executive positions held by women.
Entrepreneurship. Women owned 40 percent of all privately held U.S. companies in 2008. Women were 20 percent of the top entrepreneurs in 2011 but received only 11 percent of venture funding.
What Can Organizations and Individuals Do to Increase Women in Senior Leadership?
To increase female representation in leadership across all sectors, the study urges organizations to exercise “far greater objectivity” in hiring procedures, promotion practices, and merit increases.
The CWC report also calls for men to partner with women to achieve greater gender parity at the top, arguing that everyone benefits from this mission. In the introduction, Lynn Gangone, Dean of Colorado Women’s College, writes: “Addressing the complex challenges of the 21st century requires diversity of thought, experience and perspective. And yet, as my students often remind me: how can our nation meet those challenges when 80% of our organizational leaders are men? The time has come for women and men to share leadership for the sake of our families, our organizations and our nation.”
The Glass Hammer agrees that a more equal allocation of power may be a good start!