Closer Look: Why Are Women Underrepresented in Some Industries More Than Others
Women are significantly underrepresented in senior leadership at American companies. According to progressive public policy research and advocacy organization Center for American Progress, just 14.6% of executive officers in the United States are women, and women hold only 21.2% of board seats on companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500.
Women often have a greater presence in senior leadership at apparel and retail companies, and very little senior management representation in energy, technology, and transportation companies.
To identify the companies with the most and least female leadership, 24/7 Wall St. examined data from research group LedBetter, which created an index composed of the share of women on the board, as well as the share of women in executive leadership positions, at 237 global corporations. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 companies with the largest shares of female executives and board directors and the 10 with the smallest shares.
Of the 10 companies with the least females in leadership roles, three are car makers, three are consumer electronics manufacturers, and two are oil and pipeline services companies. Of the 10 companies with the most female leadership, five are apparel manufacturing companies and two are retailers.
Dr. Rita Gunther McGrath, a professor at Columbia Business School, Faculty of Executive Education, has written books on strategy and innovation and has spoken extensively on the subject of women in the C-suite.
“In many industries, there is a ‘type’ of leader that is thought to fit in, and women — and other underrepresented groups — often do not fit that type,” said McGrath via email. “This reflects people in power selecting people very much like themselves (and in many industries, that means white and male) for the roles that eventually lead to becoming a candidate for a leadership position.”
Research suggests that “more diverse leadership teams perform far better on creative tasks involving innovation and new ideas than less diverse ones,” McGrath said. “Less diverse teams are also more likely to develop dangerous blind spots when entire points of view are not represented. We see this problem in the tech, heavy manufacturing and financial sectors, for example.”