The C-suite is corporate America’s big sex scandal. Women hold fewer than a quarter of senior executive titles, new research finds. The tsunami of harassment exposés makes the paucity of women in leading positions even more egregious.
Women hold only 23 percent of senior executive posts with a title that includes the word chief, according to an analysis by Korn Ferry of the top 1,000 United States companies by revenue. That’s a small drop from 24 percent in 2016.
A detailed breakdown presents an even bleaker picture. Women make up just 6 percent of the blue-chip group’s chief executive officers, and 11 percent of its chief financial officers. Parity comes, perhaps predictably, in that most social of C-level jobs, chief human resource officers, where women hold 55 percent of positions.
The overall decline is even more glaring in the wake of the #metoo movement afflicting media, technology, entertainment and political circles. More women in the higher echelons of the corporate ranks could help change a culture that turns a blind eye to, if not condones, bad behavior.
The financial industry might be a test case. The sector outranked all others in the analysis with nearly 30 percent of C-suite jobs held by women. That’s a better track record than more female-friendly industries like retail and consumer at 24 percent, yet even in finance women are largely kept out of the most senior roles. Only 5 percent of the industry’s chief executives and 8 percent of its chief financial officers are female, among the lowest levels in the survey.
For decades, banks and trading floors were hostile territory for women. High-profile cases in the 1980s and 1990s brought by whistle-blowers against firms like the former Smith Barney shed light on misconduct that forced Wall Street to put in place stricter protocols and enact better inclusion policies.