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More Women Are Moving Up The Corporate Ladder But 24 Percent Of Fortune 500 Firms Still Have No Female Officers

Sun., Jan. 11, 1998

The percentage of female corporate officers at Fortune 500 companies rose slightly last year to 10.6 percent from 10 percent the previous year, according to a survey by Catalyst, a nonprofit women’s research group in New York.

While some companies have been adding women to their executive ranks, others have been subtracting. Catalyst’s survey showed that 24 percent of Fortune 500 companies have no female corporate officers, up from 21 percent in its 1996 survey.

“In almost every dimension, the numbers are moving in the right direction,” said Sheila Wellington, Catalyst’s president. “But it is clear that women have a long way to go in order to achieve parity in these influential positions or in earning power.”

Only 23 companies, or less than 5 percent of the Fortune 500, had women in at least a quarter of the top positions as corporate officers. Those with the highest percentage of female officers include Reebok International, H.F. Ahmanson, Pitney Bowes Inc., the Student Loan Marketing Association, or Sallie Mae, and the Corestates Financial Corp.

Catalyst found that some industries had much higher concentrations of female officers than others. The two with the highest percentage of women are diversified financial companies, with 31 percent, and the apparel industry, with 28 percent.

By contrast, two industries - textiles and what Catalyst classified as “mining/crude-oil production” - have no women corporate officers.

Although women hold about 10 percent of the corporate officer positions, women hold only 5.3 percent of the positions that have responsibility for profit-and-loss operations. Even fewer, 3 percent, held titles in the highest ranks of the company - executive vice president and above.

When Fortune 500 companies are analyzed for their top earners, the representation of women is even smaller. Of the 2,458 most highly compensated individuals in the Fortune 500, only 61, or 2.5 percent, were women.

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