News and Announcements

Catalyst Study Finds Woman Top Earners Doubling in 2-Year Period

Women Hold 5.3 Percent of Line Corporate Officer Positions in Fortune 500 Companies

The second annual Catalyst Census of Women Corporate Officers and Top Earners, released today, finds that the number of women top earners in Fortune 500 companies has doubled in the past two years, bringing the total to 61 women. Women make up 2.5 percent of the total of 2,458 top earners, up from just 29 women, or 1.2 percent, two years ago. The study also finds that women hold 10.6 percent of Fortune 500 corporate officer positions, slightly up from ten percent last year. Women hold only three percent (51 out of 1,728) of the highest officer positions—chairman, vice chairman, CEO, president, COO, SEVP, and EVP; this is up from 2.4 percent last year.

This year for the first time, companies reported the number of women holding positions that generate revenue and/or have profit-and-loss responsibility, commonly referred to as "line" positions. Women hold 5.3 percent of total line positions held by corporate officers. Twenty percent of all women corporate officers are in line positions, compared to 41 percent of men.

Catalyst President Sheila Wellington notes that "It's encouraging to note the increases in women top earners and corporate officers. However, the new information on the small number of women holding line positions should serve as a wake-up call to corporate leaders about the underrepresentation of women in the feeder-pool to the top jobs. Corporate leaders should take steps to ensure their leadership pipelines include women."

John Bryan, Chairman and CEO of Sara Lee Corporation, sponsor of this study, points out that "Because companies routinely benchmark their business results and processes against their own past performance and that of industry peers, Catalyst has created this accurate benchmark by which corporations can measure their success in recruiting, retaining, and advancing women employees. We hope that shining a light on the numbers will result in improvement."

Three-quarters of Fortune 500 companies—76 percent—have women corporate officers, down slightly from 78 percent last year. Just under half of these companies—47 percent—have more than one woman corporate officer.

Twenty-two companies (4.4 percent), have women filling one-quarter or more of corporate officer positions. Companies at the top of the list include Reebok International (44%), H.F. Ahmanson (43%), Pitney Bowes (42%), Student Loan Marketing Association (41%), and Corestates Financial (40%). Companies with two or more women top earners include H.F. Ahmanson, Avon Products, Inc., Estee Lauder, Med Partners, Nordstrom, Student Loan Marketing Association, Washington Mutual.

The 1997 Catalyst Census of Women Corporate Officers and Top Earners lists the number and titles of women corporate officers and top earners of each of the Fortune 500 companies and cross-references the companies by industry and geographic region.

Catalyst is the research and advisory organization that works with business for women's advancement. In 1993, Catalyst published its first Census of Women Board Directors of the Fortune 500 to measure women's progress in corporate governance arenas and, in 1996, launched the Catalyst Census of Women Corporate Officers and Top Earners, which provides an accurate count of the number of women in the most senior and highly compensated management positions in corporate America. Sara Lee Corporation has sponsored both censuses since their inception.