Reading: The Best and Worst Industries for Women in Leadership Roles

Report

The Best and Worst Industries for Women in Leadership Roles

The Future is Female in the Utility Sector

By PJ Feinstein

Photo by Karsten Würth

Looking to rise to the rank of a c-suite executive? Scoring a leadership position is still a huge uphill battle for women, according to  Pew Research Center’s analysis of S&P 1500 company compensation reports filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 2017. The report showed that  across all business sectors only about 10% of executive-level roles are held by women—with 5.1% attaining the level of CEO.

If that percentage sounds low, well… it is.  Despite the fact that women make up 47% of the labor force, and are significantly more likely to be college-educated than men (38% to their 33%), we are still scarce at the top.

So where in the corporate world are we closest to breaking the glass ceiling? One word: utilities. Women hold 18.5% of utility CEO positions overall. And, interestingly enough, gas utilities in specific, report a whopping 30% their non-CEO top executives are female. The next best industry for female leaders is what the report calls “consumer discretionary,” companies that make and sell items such as cars or handbags or provide services from wedding planners to hotel managers. Approximately 16% of non-CEO top executive roles in that sector are held by women.

The worst industry for women in leadership roles? Telecommunications, where only 6% of non-CEO execs are women and there are zero women CEOs.

Women may be underrepresented at the top of the corporate ladder, but we’re starting to make some significant gains. Just look at Mary Barra, who became the first female CEO of a global automaker when she was hired by General Motors in 2014. The car company made history again in June 2018 by hiring Dhivya Suryadevara as their first female CFO, making GM one of only two Fortune 500 companies with a CEO and CFO who are women.

It may only be a matter of time before the glass ceiling is totally shattered. Consider this: It typically takes a graduate degree plus 25 years of work experience for an employee to qualify for a senior management position; back in the ’70s, fewer than 5% of law and MBA degrees were awarded to women. Since women now make up the majority of law students for the first time, it’s time to start counting down from 25.

And while gender parity in business is definitely still a problem, we are seeing more and more reasons to feel optimistic about the future. In a Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults, “Women and Leadership 2018,” conducted this summer, 59% of all respondents (and 70% of women) said there are too few women in top executive business leadership positions in the country today. Even more encouraging, a majority (69%) also said that having more women in top leadership positions would do a lot (29%) or some (40%) to improve the quality of life for all Americans. While we may not be shattering that glass ceiling tomorrow, we’re slowly heading in the right direction.

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