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Do you champion women leaders? The number is certainly trending downward, but women never held a large percentage of leadership roles, in the first place.

As of 2018, only 4.8% of Fortune 500 companies are led by women – down from 6.4% in 2017 [1]. The S&P 500 shares similar numbers: 5.0% in 2018 – down from 5.4% in 2016 [2]. But women do hold 44.7% of ALL positions in S&P 500 companies. So why the disparity? This isn’t about a pay gap. This is about a gender gap.

As Sarah Waite (VP of Talent Management at ABRA Auto Body & Glass) implores,

If 50% of your potential customers weren’t interested in what you were selling, you’d think about redesigning your product. Women are 50% of the populations but are either shut out or opt out of today’s leadership model. It is clearly time to redesign the leadership product we are selling.

But before we can develop ideas and redesign solutions, we need to understand why. We need to ask some questions.

Q1: Why did the number of top 500 women leaders decrease between 2016 and 2018?

A1: They resigned. Although the number of female CEOs has steadily increased over the last two decades, according to Fortune, more than a third of Fortune 500 female CEOs resigned in the past year [3].

Q2: Why did such a large number of women leaders resign in 2017-2018?

A2: We don’t know, but we can guess. Despite motivational messages from leaders like Lena Dunham and Sheryl Sandberg, organizations still demonstrate gender inequality, in terms of pay [5]. According to a Wall Street Journal report, in 2017, the median pay for S&P 500 CEOs reached 12.1 million. But while pay for women CEOs tended to be higher than men, there are some discrepancies [6]:
Among S&P 500 companies, the top paid women CEOs made 33% to 50% of the top paid men
Among companies in general – not just those in the S&P 500 – women CEOs made 79.5% of men

Q3: What can we do about it?

A3: The answer lies much deeper than the pay gap. According to Forbes, women’s job satisfaction is less tied to pay than it is for men [7]. What did make a difference? Overall gender equality, gender balance in management, family friendliness, and maternity leave policies. In other words, workplace culture – diversity – inclusion – flexibility – respect.

ECCO International can help with this.

Dr. Amy S. Tolbert, CSP Principal – ECCO International Partner – Spectra Diversity Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Expert Author, Researcher and Keynote Speaker Dr. Amy S. Tolbert expands individuals’ productivity and increases organizations’ profitability through leadership development and global business communications.