It’s not the “year of the woman” in American business, either

What do Apple, Bed Bath & Beyond, Blockbuster, Citigroup, Comcast, Costco, Delta Airlines, Exxon Mobil, Intel, Kohl’s, Loews, McGraw-Hill, Pepsi Bottling, RadioShack, Sysco and Virgin Media all have in common?

None of these Fortune 500 companies has a single woman executive officer.

The list of companies with absolutely no women in the top ranks was released this week by Catalyst as part of the 2010 Catalyst Census. The Census tracks the number of women in executive and top earner positions. This year, 14.4% of executive officer positions at Fortune 500 companies are held by women, up from 13.5% last year. Women now hold 7.6% of top-earning positions at these companies, an increase of 1.3% from last year.

The companies that have zero women executive officers account for 27.4% of all Fortune 500 companies. Thirty-two percent of Fortune 500 companies have only one female executive officer. Which means that if you work at a Fortune 500 company, there is a 60% chance that the small group of people making the big decisions about your company’s future contains one or no women.

Looks like 2010 wasn’t the year of the woman in American business any more than it was in American politics.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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  • Kenia Perez

    Ok – I have to come out and say it. Every time I read a piece like this anywhere, that quotes the percentage of women in top positions (or percentage of women writers accepted for an award, or percentage of women fill-in-the-blank), I notice that the articles *never* state what is the percentage of women who even *applied* to said positions.

    Yes, I understand that mysogynist corporate cultures would make it unappealing (to put it nicely) for women to even bother applying. But that is then going into analyzing the reasons *why* the percentage of women in such positions is what it is.

    I’d like to focus, for now, on simply the *what* because then that would guide the thought process into which direction it should go to discover the *why.* This piece provides an incomplete pictures of the *what.* If you were to also say, for example, “50% of applicants were women, and yet there are only 13% in such positions,” THEN I will have a complete picture of *what* is happening, and to me it will seem like a pure gender discrimination issue. On the other hand, another example would be “13% of applicants are women, and 13% are in such positions” that is another story all together. Now I see that this is an issue of women simply not applying or asking for such positions. Now I will begin to investigate the *why* in a different manner: Why aren’t more women applying? What gender discrimination hurtles are keeping them from applying? What if it’s a general lack of confidence in themselves? What if they want to apply, but don’t, because they wouldn’t have the flexibility they need in such positions to care for a family (which would also go into why women carry more of the burden in the home than men), etc, etc, etc.

    The why can go in SO many directions, but please – paint me a whole picture of the *what* first so it is clearly and completely defined. I’d like to know, *how many* women are applying??

    • Jessica

      I agree with you that knowing how many women applied to these positions would provide a more complete picture, but I still think without those figures we get at least a good general picture of a problem. We already know that there’s a problem with women getting promoted, and so I’m not surprised that there are fewer women executives. Regardless of how many women are applying, if there wasn’t a problem with corporate sexism, then we’d see a gender split closer to 50/50. In the same vein, if there wasn’t a problem with racism and other isms, then other marginalized groups would also be present in the executive level in roughly the same ratios as the general population.

      • honeybee

        I’m not so sure that is true there.

        Many visible minorities are recent immigrants who lack the education to compete at the same level. Furthermore, the definition of a minority means they make up a smaller percentage of society. So if there are say 10% minorities in society, then in a 100% completely fair society you would have 10% minorities in executive positions. In otherwords, in a 100% completely fair society minorities will still ALWAYS be under-represented.

        Regarding women, because women are the ones who get pregnant and give birth to children, women will always be required to miss more work then men (if they have children), regardless of who cares for the child after he/she is born, etc. Similarly I expect women will, overall, always take more child related leave then men, if for no other reason then breastfeeding and recovery after birth. And thus I don’t think women will ever be exactly 50% of positions.

        Having said all that – we can do alot better then today. We can certainly get the figures much closer to equal. But we have to recognize the realities of the above and not push to create a situation where in fact women are given unfair advantages over men, else we’ve simply replaced the current inequalities with another.

        • Jessica

          I didn’t say that executive boards should be made up of the exact percentages of different people as the larger population, but that kind of disparity as ridiculous. There are minorities and women graduating college at increasing rates, and even if it takes women longer to get to the executive board due to pregnancies, they should still be significantly represented on the boards. I could understand something closer to 40% women to 60% men, but women are represented as less than 15% of executives with many companies employing NO women executives at all. I have a serious problem with companies that are headed by mostly, if not only, white males while the bulk of their workforce is mostly women and/or people of color. You’ve got to be kidding me that there are so few women and minorities that are qualified for executive jobs when there are study after study showing that there are problems with the corporate world hiring and promoting those groups.

  • nazza

    I think business is more an old boys club than politics. There’s this sort of clubby precedent present. And, to be honest, I don’t know of more than a handful of women that I know who wanted to go into business or get an MBA.

  • nazza

    Though I will gladly be corrected if my own experiences do not resemble current trends.