Few Female Executives at California Firms: Study


The corporate glass ceiling remains firmly in place at companies based in California, according to a study released Wednesday.

The University of California, Davis study found women account for about 10 percent of executives and board members at the 400 largest publicly traded companies headquartered in California. The findings have changed little since the first survey in 2005.

"Unfortunately, we've seen virtually no progress," said Steven Currall, dean of the university's Graduate School of Management. "Our findings paint a somewhat disappointing picture."

He said more diverse leadership is needed to help California corporations succeed in a global economy.

The university's annual survey comes from reports the companies file with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission. Nearly 30 percent of the companies had no women in executive or board positions.

California's corporate gender mix is similar to that in many companies nationwide, said Wendy Beecham, chief executive of the Palo Alto-based Forum for Women Entrepreneurs & Executives, which helped promote the study.

She cited national research showing companies with the highest concentration of women in leadership are more profitable than those with low representation. Women may take a longer-term view for both profits and risk, Beecham said.

Researchers also found that companies with no female directors or managers had the poorest performance on environmental matters. Those with women on their boards and as executives had the highest environmental rankings, as measured by an independent group not affiliated with the graduate school.

The study found women hold less than 10 percent of the seats on the boards of directors for California corporations and less than 12 percent of top executive positions, such as chief executive officer, chief operating officer, chief financial officer and chief information officer. Both figures are lower than a year ago.

Nearly half the companies have no female executives, and just 15 of the top 400 companies have a woman as chief executive, up from 13 in 2008.

This year's survey was released as two women who have climbed to the top of major California companies are playing prominent roles on the political stage. Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman is running for governor, and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is seeking a seat in the U.S. Senate. Both are Republicans.