Progress in Corporate America Remains Slow for Women

Women in 2002 account for 15.7 percent of corporate officers in Fortune 500 companies compared with 12.5 percent two years ago, according to a survey released last Tuesday by Catalyst, a New York-based women’s advocacy and research group. The publication entitled, 2002 Catalyst Census of Women Corporate Officers and Top Earners of the Fortune 500 reported improvements, albeit small, for high-ranking female executives holding chief executive, chair, vice chair, president, chief operating officer, senior executive vice president, and executive vice president positions. “Corporate America has awakened to the notion that it can’t afford to waste talent We get a tremendous amount out of women who are senior executives at our company,” explained Jamie S. Gorelick, vice chair of Fannie Mae.

Women constitute almost 47 percent of this country’s labor force, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, there are only six Fortune 500 women CEOs: Carly Fiorina of Hewlett-Packard Co., S. Marce Fuller of Mirant Corp., Patricia F. Russo of Lucent Technologies, Inc., Anne M. Mulcahy of Xerox Corp., Andrea Jung of Avon Products Inc., and Marion O. Sandler of Golden West Financial Corp. Most women surveyed by Catalyst attributed the gender discrepancies in the business world to “exclusion from informal networks,” where negotiations and insider information are often discussed.

Women are constantly inundated with advice, offering strategies to improve upward professional mobility. An article appearing last week in Utne Reader discussed the book Same Game, Different Rules, written by Jean Hollands, where women are advised to adopt a softer, more timid approach to achieve what they want. Author Robin Gerber of Leadership: The Eleanor Roosevelt Way countered, “Hollands has convinced her clients that leadership comes only to women smart enough to curb their confrontational tactics and boost their sensitivity to subordinates.” Ironically, “Men don’t need to worry about these things”

An Associated Press article published last Thursday suggested the opposite approach that women become more aggressive in demanding proper compensation for their work. “Women tend to give away their skills for free or at bargain pricesÉ Women have to learn to speak up and ask for what they want. If they don’t get it, they have to be willing to walk,” said motivational speaker Barbara Stanny. “Money is power; money is recognition; money allows us more choices.”

According to statistics released by the US Census Bureau on September 25, 2001, women working full-time earn only 73 cents for every dollar earned by men. Minority women earn even less, with African-American and Latina women earning 65 cents and 53 cents, respectively for every dollar earned by white males.


Associated Press 11/19/02, 11/21/02; Washington Post 11/19/02; Catalyst 11/2002; Feminist Daily News Wire; US Census Bureau 9/2002

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