Top companies headquartered in California could use a few binders full of women. A new report finds that female executives hold fewer than 1 in 10 of the top spots in the state's 400 biggest companies. Worse yet, of the 85 Fortune 1000 companies based in California, just one is headed by an ethnic minority woman -- Linda Lang of San Diego-based Jack in the Box. California's numbers are on par with other states, but that's still a pathetic record for a state as ethnically diverse as California, which leads the nation in so many other ways.
The Graduate School of Management's eighth annual UC Davis Study of California Women Business Leaders found no intentional effort to keep women out of leadership roles. The authors did note that tech industries tend to be more male-dominated and that many of California's biggest companies are tech-related. Companies that tended to have female leadership also happened to have policies to proactively recruit and retain women.
The lack of women in corner offices and boardrooms has been a topic of discussion for years. It was once assumed women just needed more time to catch up in the corporate world. But after four decades of tiny gains, it's time to look at present circumstances more cynically. Women suffer career setbacks when they take time off to raise children, are less likely than men to be promoted from within their company to executive positions, and tend to cluster in certain industries like retail and media.
Regardless of the theories, in today's world, where women outnumber men in college and more women than ever are earning MBAs, female CEOs should no longer be statistical anomalies. But they are. To address a similar problem, some European countries are now considering mandatory quotas for female CEOs. That approach is overkill, but more emphasis needs to placed on the dearth of women in leading corporate roles. Voluntary efforts to encourage more females at high levels seem to work but more companies need to be encouraged to adopt them.
Just as more companies are embracing corporate social responsibility to promote the fair treatment of consumers or to limit impacts on the environment, they should also embrace efforts to increase gender diversity among their top ranks.