Decreasing the Disparity between Male and Female Executives

April 23, 2012

How many female executives are in the S&P Midcap? How many female CEOs? How does a female executive’s pay compare to male executive’s pay in the S&P Midcap? Our research addressed these questions but opened up even more questions to answer.

It was surprising to find that, from 2006-2010, fewer than 10% of S&P Midcap executives were female and, even more shocking was that fewer than 3% of the CEOs were female. As some might guess, female executives are concentrated in certain regions and industries, which the research highlights. Increases in the number of female executives in the earlier part of the decade, however slight, were reversed, in some industries, by the economic crisis.  This finding contradicts a popular theory that women are more recession proof than men.  It is unclear from the data whether any of the lost ground has been regained.

A positive and encouraging statistically significant finding from the data was that female potential and realized compensation was consistent with male potential and realized compensation at the end of the decade.  Women and men have made important strides in equality of executive compensation. Can the same be said in all levels of an organization?

This research scratched the surface of female and male business career progression disparities and similarities. A question that new data should answer is whether this current decrease in female executives will continue or not?  Additionally will there be an equalization of female executives across industries and regions? If so, what factors contributed to this equalization?

In the beginning I stated that more questions were raised from the research. Following are some of those questions. What are the biggest influencers of men and women excelling in business? Does having strong mentors and advocates within their organization most effect an executive’s progress? What are the most actionable steps men and women can take to bring this executive gender disparity to light? Will bringing men into the conversation of supporting successful women in business more quickly minimize the disparities?

Samantha McAnulty is a Research Assistant for the report, Women in Leadership: A Look at Companies in the S&P MidCap 400 Index, 2000-2010. She is an MBA Class of 2013 at the Georgetown University McDonough School of Business and Vice President of Mentorship, Georgetown Graduate Women in Business.