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Catalyst Census Marks Gains in Numbers of Women Corporate Officers in America's Largest 500 Companies

Even as the economy continues to stagnate, women in corporate America are experiencing upward movement. In Catalyst’s 2002 Catalyst Census of Women Corporate Officers and Top Earners, women currently represent 15.7 percent of corporate officers in America’s 500 largest companies up from 12.5 percent in 2000 and 8.7 percent in 1995, when Catalyst began counting.

“In down economies women have been generally hit harder than their male counterparts in the workplace, but in the Catalyst Census, we find the numbers of women at the top are increasing, however slowly,” said Sheila Wellington, President Catalyst, “2,140 out of 13,673 corporate officers are women. That’s up from 1,622 out of 12,495 women in 2000.

For the first time the Catalyst census sponsored by the AT& T Foundation and The Coca-Cola Company is reporting the numbers in two additional areas where there is a high concentration of women in the corporate power structure: chief financial officer and general counsel. In 2002, women comprise 7.1 percent of the 496 Chief Financial Officers (CFO) and 16.1 percent of the 453 General Counsels (GC) compared to 5.6 percent of the CFO positions and 13.7 percent of the GC positions in 2000.

Top Earners and Clout Titles

Although women are moving up, men still dominate the earnings race. Almost 95 percent or 2,141 of the top earning corporate officers are men compared to only 118 or 5.2 percent of women top earners in the Fortune 500. This represents an increase from 1996 when 1.9 percent of the top corporate earners, were women.

But women are gaining prominence in organizations; Catalyst found women holding clout titles have increased from 7.3 percent in 2000 to 9.9 percent this year. Catalyst defines clout titles as those positions that wield the most corporate influence and policy making power including, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, Vice Chairman, President, Chief Operating Officer, Senior Executive Vice President, and Executive Vice President.

Companies Without Women Corporate Officers

“I am always impressed by the 60 companies where 25% or more of their corporate officers are women and am pleased with the 429 companies who have at least one woman corporate officer and the 333 who have more than two. That includes an additional 113 companies who over the last few years have recognized the value and competitive advantage to having women as part of the executive team,” said Wellington. “But what continues to amaze me are the 71 companies who in the 21st Century still have no women in their corporate officer ranks.”

Women Corporate Officers: Regional Change Between 2000 and 2002

When Catalyst looked at changes by region since the last Catalyst census, there were some surprising differences. The regional numbers on women corporate officers show:

  • The Western region lags far behind the rest of the country with 13.4% vs. the national 15.7%
  • The South is the region farthest ahead with 16.2%
  • The Midwest comes in second with 16.1%
  • The Northeast is a close third with 16.0%

Women of Color Corporate Officers and Top Earners

Catalyst finds the percentage of women of color officers has increased in 2002 to 1.6 percent compared to 1.3 percent in 1999 and 2000. Of the 163 women of color corporate officers:

  • 106 are African American
  • 30 are Asian-American/Pacific Islander
  • 25 are Hispanic
  • 2 reported their race/ethnicity as “other”

"We are finally seeing some movement in women of color at the top, albeit slight, but the numbers are minuscule. Smart executives are investing today in mid-level women of color to ensure the best pool of talent for corporate leadership tomorrow,” concludes Wellington. “They understand this will give them the competitive edge in the global market place.

The sponsors of this study are the AT& T Foundation and The Coca-Cola Company.

About Catalyst:
Catalyst is a nonprofit research and advisory organization working to advance women in business and the professions, with offices in New York, California and Toronto. The leading source of information on women in business for the past for decades, Catalyst has the knowledge and tools that help employers and women maximize their potential. Our solutions-oriented approach-through research, Advisory Services, Corporate Board Placement, and the Catalyst Award—has earned the confidence of global business leaders. For additional information or to obtain a copy of this report, please visit our web site at or call 212-514-7600.