New report finds women in business are redefining the game throughout America's free enterprise system

Women in business are redefining the game throughout America's free enterprise system, according to new research by Dr. Catherine H. Tinsley of Georgetown University, the National Chamber Foundation and the Center for Women in Busness examine women's representation in the top executive ranks of mid-cap firms.

The research paper, Women in Leadership: A Look at Companies in the S&P MidCap 400 Index, 2000-2010, was presented CWB inaugural event on March 21.

Research Findings

The analysis presented in this study focuses on the gender makeup of the top five executives of companies that comprise the S&P MidCap 400 Index from the years 2000 to 2010. In addition to examining the percentage of women at this very top level over time, this report looks at their compensation relative to that of their male colleagues. As we explain below, the increase in available data, coupled with the recession, created a particularly interesting situation in the years 2006 to 2010. This period is where we focus most of our attention.

Over the past decade, the average percentage of women in the top executive ranks of the mid-cap firms in the United States totaled 5.7%. This number did not come about through consistent growth from 2000 to 2010. Rather, the level of female participation increased through the middle part of the decade and then rapidly dropped in 2009 and 2010.

We examine women’s representation in the top executive ranks of these mid-cap firms from a number of different perspectives, such as age, location, industry, and the status of these executives within their firm. Indeed, looking at different age clusters of executives reveals that younger female executives (between 27 and 39 years old) suffered a decline in their ranks starting earlier than the other executives (2006 rather than 2008). Moreover, the percentage of older female executives (aged 60 and above) seemed to stay the most consistent, albeit at an already low level.

The location of a company also appears to have an impact on female participation at the executive level. The Northeast region of the United States enjoyed the highest percentage of female executives, while the Midwest consistently ranks at the bottom. Preliminary study appears to show that the differences among regions in the percentage of female executives have much to do with the types of industries that dominate in each area of the country.

Throughout the United States, a large difference exists between industries based on the representation of women in their executive ranks. Women make up more than 10% of executives in three industries: media, life sciences, and retailing. Mid-cap automobiles and components industry had no female executives from 2000 to 2010.

Another finding is that the gap in compensation between male and female executives appears to be narrowing. In fact, women in some industries are outperforming men in terms of compensation. Nevertheless, the average percentage of women who became executives and garner this level of compensation remains low. There is still a long way to go.