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June 29, 2011New research shows that 29 companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 have no women on their board of directors or among their top five highest-paid officers. The lack of women atop S&P 500 companies aligns with Catalyst research on the Fortune 500, where women hold only 15.7% of board seats and 7.6% of top-earning positions. While frustrating, these numbers point to opportunities these companies have in promoting women to the top. More news about these challenges, and solutions, in today’s C This.

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Opportunity Knocks, But Mind the Gap

MBA programs and students around the globe have been swamped by increased levels of recruiting, job postings, and job offers. While this may signal an uptick in the global economy, what hasn’t changed is the MBA pay gap: women still earn about $4,600 less in their first job out of business school, regardless of region, parenthood status, and prior experience.

READ: “Doors of Opportunity Open Again for MBAs,” by Della Bradshaw, Financial Times, 6/27/11

Where Are the Women?

New research shows that 47 companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 have no women on their board of directors—a number that has grown since last year. What’s worse, tokenism is rife: only three companies have boards composed of more than 40% women. “If you only have one woman on a board then it can be difficult,” said Aida Alvarez, a former administrator of the Small Business Administration who now sits on corporate boards. “If you have at least some numbers, then you feel more empowered about opening up and expressing your doubts,” she added.

READ: “Boys Only Boards,” by Joel Stonington, Bloomberg Businessweek, 6/23/11

A Catalyst in Malaysia

Malaysia has joined Norway, France, and Spain, among other nations, by imposing quotas to increase the number of women atop corporations. A continuation of a similar policy set for the private sector in 2004, the Malaysian government recently imposed a policy that women must comprise at least 30% of decision-making positions in the private sector by 2016. “I believe this landmark and important decision made by the Cabinet last week will be a catalyst to an affirmative action towards gender equality in the corporate sector,” said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

READ: “PM: 30% of Corporate Decision-Makers Must Be Women,” by Mazwin Nik Anis, The Star, 6/27/11

The Good Fight

Three of India’s most powerful women in politics—chief ministers Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal, Jayaram Jayalalithaa of Tamil Nadu, and Kumari Mayawati of Uttar Pradesh—each struggle for social change. Banerjee is fighting to create a national ombudsman to investigate official corruption, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party aims to empower India’s lowest castes, while Jayalalithaa leads a crusade against election fraud. “What clearly unites them is the common theme of struggle,” notes journalist Jyoti Malhotra.

READ: “Politics Journal: The Trio of Female Chief Ministers Storms Delhi,” by Jyoti Malhotra, The Wall Street Journal, 6/24/11

Scandal-less Women?

Are male CEOs more scandal-prone than women? Not necessarily. “The first and most obvious reason why my male CEOs are involved in more scandals is because there are more [male] CEOs,” writes Chris MacDonald. While higher rates of testosterone have been linked to financial risk-taking, it’s harder to connect risky behavior in one domain to a tendency toward risky behavior in another. Only time will tell if the next Skilling, Madoff, or Boesky will be a “Ms.” or “Mrs.”

READ: “Want to Avoid Scandal at the Top? Hire a Woman!,” by Chris MacDonald, Canadian Business, 6/13/11