Overall women’s representation in senior leadership positions stagnates

Release by Catalyst.org

NEW YORK, NY (December 10, 2007)– Despite the flat growth in the number of women in senior leadership positions such as board directors, corporate officers and top earners, women held a greater percentage of  powerful board committee chair positions in 2007 compared to 2006, according to the 2007 Catalyst Census of Women Board Directors, Corporate Officers, and Top Earners of the Fortune 500, released today. The research brief further revealed that women corporate officers are actually losing ground in line jobs, which often serve as a gateway for promotion to top leadership positions.

“Smart companies realize there is a strong business case for diversity. As prior Catalyst research shows, there is a substantial correlation between corporate financial performance and women’s representation in leadership positions,” said Ilene H. Lang, President of Catalyst. “We welcome the news that some progress is being made, but the overall findings are disappointing.”

Of significant note is the finding that shows women’s share of nominating/governance committee chairs surpassed women’s share of overall board positions. Women held 14.8 percent of all Fortune 500 board seats in 2007 compared to 14.6 percent in 2006, but 15.1 percent of the nominating/governance committee chairs in 2007. There was virtually no change in the numbers of companies with zero, one, two and three or more women on their boards, and the percentage of women of color director positions essentially held steady at 3.0 percent compared to 3.1 percent in 2006.

Similar stagnant growth in numbers was found in women corporate officer and top earner positions in the Fortune 500. Women held 15.4 percent of corporate officer positions in 2007, compared to 15.6 percent in 2006. Women in top-paying positions stayed the same at 6.7 percent.  There was a 15.6 percent increase in the number of companies that had no women corporate officers, from 64 companies in 2006 to 74 companies in 2007, and the percentage of women in line positions which often lead to top leadership jobs fell by 1.8 percentage points, from 29.0 percent to 27.2 percent.

The 2007 Catalyst Census of Women Board Directors, Corporate Officers and Top Earners and its appendices are available at www.catalyst.org.


The Catalyst Census is an annual report that captures the number of women Corporate Officers, Top Earners, and Directors in the Fortune 500 from April 1, 2006 – March 31, 2007. We obtain our information from publicly available documents, including annual reports, 10-Ks, and proxy statements.

About Catalyst

Founded in 1962, Catalyst is the leading nonprofit corporate membership research and advisory organization working globally with businesses and the professions to build inclusive environments and expand opportunities for women and business. With offices in New York, San Jose, Toronto, and Zug, and the support and confidence of more than 340 leading corporations, firms, business schools, and associations, Catalyst is connected to business and its changing needs and is the premier resource for information and data about women in the workplace. In addition, Catalyst honors exemplary business initiatives that promote women’s leadership with the annual Catalyst Award.


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