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14 percent: Why are women under represented in the C-suites of corporate America?

Four decades after the feminist revolution, why are there so few women at the top of big companies across America and in Hawaii?

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Women in the Black Book

For 15 years, Hawaii Business’ annual Black Book has been a list of the state’s business and nonprofit leaders, largely drawn from the executives of the Top 250 organizations in Hawaii.

2011: 20.19 percent of Black Book executives were female.
1997: 4.31 percent of Black Book executives were female.


Women at the Top of Corporate America

This chart shows the percentage of women who serve on the boards of directors, and as executive officers of Fortune 500 companies within various sectors of the American economy.

Source: 2011 Catalyst survey of Fortune 500 leadership. Catalyst is a nonprofit membership organization working to expand opportunities for women.

Highs and lows highlighted in yellow

Industry Percentage of women directors Percentage of women executive officers
Accomodations and Food Services 14.2% 15.9%
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, Hunting 15.2% 8.8%
Arts, Entertainment, Recreation 0.0% 6.3%
Construction 5.6% 10.0%
Finance and Insurance 18.3% 18.4%
Health Care and Social Assistance 14.3% 16.4%
Information 15.6% 12.2%
Manufacturing - Durable Goods 14.3% 11.1%
Manufacturing - Non-Durable Goods 17.6% 13.3%
Mining, Quarrying, Oil, Gas Extraction 12.4% 12.7%
Professional and Businesss Services 16.1% 10.8%
Public Administration 10.0% 18.2%
Real Estate, Rental and Leasing 16.7% 12.5%
Retail Trade 17.9% 18.7%
Transportation and Warehousing 13.7% 11.8%
Utilities 16.3% 11.4%
Wholesale Trade 14.7% 13.9%
TOTAL 16.1% 14.1%

We’ve Come Halfway, Baby

Women’s earnings as a percent of men’s (comparing median usual weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers).

2010: 81.2 %
2000: 76.9 %
1990: 71.9 %
1980: 64.2 %

Source: Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics


Laws Govern Equal Pay

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 put into law the principle that women and men should be paid the same amount for equal work, but, 46 years later, it was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that gave women a powerful weapon with which to actually collect that equal pay.

Ledbetter was a production supervisor for a Goodyear tire plant in Alabama who, shortly before her retirement in 1998, filed an equal-pay lawsuit. After working its way through various lower courts, the case came before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007, which ruled 5-4 that the 180-day statute of limitations for Ledbetter had run out, since the clock began ticking years before, on the day her employer made its first discriminatory wage decision.

That same year, Democrats in both the U.S. House and Senate introduced bills that would have revised the statute of limitations so that it would begin anew each time a person is issued a discriminatory paycheck. The legislation was defeated then by Republicans, who said such a law would open the door to frivolous lawsuits.

In January 2009, with Democrats holding a majority in both chambers, the House and Senate each passed the law that bears Ledbetter’s name. It was the first bill signed into law by President Obama.

– Beverly Creamer


Women-Owned Businesses, by the Numbers

8.3 million U.S. businesses owned by women
7.7 million People employed in those businesses
$1.3 trillion Annual revenue generated
54% Growth in number of women-owned businesses since 1997, compared with overall growth rate of 37 percent
31% Percentage of businesses in Hawaii owned by women, compared with 28.8 percent nationally

Source: U.S. Census Bureau and bureau’s 2012 Survey of Business Owners


Women in the Workforce

Source: 2010 and 2011 figures from Catalyst, Bureau of Labor Statistics, American Bar Association.


Sidetrack Women at Your Own Risk

Meda Chesney-Lind, director of the Women’s Studies Program at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, says the new generation of women coming out of business, law and medical schools are more numerous and tougher than their predecessors. She offers these warnings to business leaders:

“This generation won’t be as tolerant as we were.

“Women are a majority of those in college. Businesses are going to have to start worrying about running out of men to hire and turn to these women they’ve been ignoring. There’s going to be a man shortage; business will run out of men with the credentials.

“Savvy business people are going to understand that gender is important. There are some workplace issues where good business people realize that, ‘If we have more women here it would be better for everyone.’ For instance, having people trained in understanding workplace violence, sexual harassment, same-sex violence, domestic violence, it’s better for the work environment of everyone.”

– Beverly Creamer

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