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Women’s Status And Pay In The C-Suite: New Study

Naomi Cahn (Forbes)


In the highest ranks of corporate America, there are seven times as many male executive officers as female executive officers; and, at the CEO level, men outnumber women by almost 17 to one, according to a new report from Morningstar authored by Jackie Cook. More than half of companies studied did not have even a single female named executive officer, according to Morningstar, which drew on its Executive Insight Database*. Cook noted that, as of 2020, Amazon did not have any women  on its list of top-paid executives. (In Amazon’s 2020 proxy statement, its five named executive officers are men.)

The report suggests there may be two reasons for the gap in pay and the gap in representation. First, women are less likely to be promoted than men. Indeed, reports from McKinsey/Lean In document how the management pipeline is broken: for every 100 men who are promoted to the position of manager, only 85 women are promoted, and the gap is even more pronounced for African-American women and Latinas. So, women held 38% of entry-level management positions in 2020, while men held the remaining 62%. 

Cathy Hwang, a law professor who teaches corporate law at the University of Virginia, explained that the “report just underscores how under-represented women (and people of color) continue to be in corporate America. Many companies have focused on hiring a diverse workforce, but there’s still a ton of work to be in retention and promotion.”

Second, the Morningstar report notes that “women and men advance upward through different channels,” with women more likely to “occupy support roles like human resources and administration compared with the higher-paid roles that engender a fast track to the top, with higher pay—typically operations, profit and loss, and R&D roles.” This is the “glass wall” phenomenon, in which women are boxed into certain roles. According to another study (reported in the Wall Street Journal), women were one-third as likely as men “to have been encouraged to consider a P&L role,” and men were “twice as likely to have been promoted or selected for leadership training in the past two years. Nearly half the men reported getting detailed advice at work on how to chart their path to a P&L job, compared with 15% of women surveyed.”

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    Company Culture
    Gender Equity/Diversity

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