Glacial Progress in Women’s Leadership

Winter is arriving this week and with it came two newly released surveys that paint a chilly picture of progress in women’s leadership. On Monday, The Forward’s annual survey of leadership in Jewish non-profits showed that the overall number of women in top leadership remains appallingly static, still lagging significantly behind that of men (10 of 74 organizational execs; at 13.5 %, better than the 3-4 % of the corporate world, but still abysmal). And there’s a 20 cent gender pay gap, even after adjusting statistically for the fact that women leaders are concentrated in smaller organizations with lower expenditures and fewer employees.

Then on Wednesday, the Catalyst 2013 Census of Fortune 500 showed that there is “still no progress after years of no progress” in the numbers of women holding board and executive positions. According to the census, “Women held only 16.9% of corporate board seats in 2013, indicating no significant year-over-year uptick for the 8th straight year.” And, Catalyst found, “only 14.6% of Executive Officer positions were held by women—the 4th consecutive year of no year-over-year growth.” Further, according to Catalyst, 10% of companies had no women serving on their boards!

There are glimmers of hope: Last week General Motors announced the appointment of Mary T. Barra as chief executive and this week HIAS, founded 132 years ago to aid Jewish immigrants, announced that it has hired a “social justice dream team” of three vice presidents, gifted women who bring varied and valuable experience to their new positions.

Research indicates that women in leadership improves business performance, increases innovation, and improves employee engagement. Yet, as the statistics show, progress is painfully slow. Only when organizations commit to change will change happen. How about it guys?


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