2011 a Disappointing Year for Advancement of Women in the Workplace

Don Tennant
Slide Show

10 Negotiation Tips for Women

Tips from "A Woman's Guide to Successful Negotiating."

As 2011 draws to a close, it's discouraging to find that Fortune 500 companies have made no significant gains this year in the gender diversity of their boards of directors, and that in fact, women have made it no higher up the corporate ladder than the rung they had reached six years ago.


Those are the findings of research conducted by Catalyst, a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of opportunities for women in the workplace. Here are some of the less-than-uplifting details:


  • Women held 16.1 percent of board seats in 2011, compared to 15.7 percent in 2010.
  • Less than one-fifth of companies had 25 percent or more women board directors.
  • About one in 10 companies had no women serving on their boards.
  • Women of color still held only 3 percent of corporate board seats.
  • Women held 14.1 percent of executive officer positions in 2011, compared to 14.4 percent in 2010.
  • Women held only 7.5 percent of executive officer top-earner positions in 2011, while men accounted for 92.5 percent of top earners.
  • Less than one in five companies had 25 percent or more women executive officers and more than one-quarter had zero.


Catalyst has come up with some suggested steps to enable talented women to advance and contribute:


  • Set business targets with accountability. Demographics demand, and businesses can potentially profit from, women's leadership.
  • Ask if the skills, knowledge, and experience of employees are evaluated differently depending on a candidate's gender. Catalyst research shows that men reap the benefits of certain career advancement strategies, while women do not. Catalyst research reveals that women MBAs start at lower positions and salaries and do not catch up to their male colleagues, which disadvantages them and their employers. Catalyst research also shows that women don't receive the sponsorship of highly influential individuals, which our research indicates is critical for advancement.
  • Find out whether the "think-leader-think-male" default is still alive and well. Catalyst research has demonstrated that gender-based stereotyping is embedded (often unintentionally) in the very talent management systems designed to cultivate an organization's best talent.
  • Determine whether persistent myths are still in play. For example, Catalyst research shows that women do not prefer a slower track and that they do use career advancement strategies similar to those employed by men, yet they don't get the same payoff.

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