January 15, 2013

Meg, Sheryl and Marissa are Among the Few…

I began my morning with an early media scan through my Twitter list and immediately came across Ad Age’s article about the who’s who industry leaders to watch in 2013.  I became instantly depressed.  It’s only the first week of January, right?  Surely, I can’t be depressed already!  Yes, the depression has set in because there is not a single woman on the list.  Remember, 85% of the buying power resides with women.  And yet, all of the men are responsible for marketing?  What’s wrong with this picture?

This prompted me to research the year-end numbers for 2012 and the progress women have (or have not) made in leadership.  It is, in fact, a very ugly picture, and further depressing.  Women made few inroads last year in joining U.S. corporate boards or executive teams, or even as high-profile appointments at companies.  Marissa’s appointment and subsequent impressive early results at Yahoo! Inc. is one of the few exceptions.

Women held 14.3 percent of executive positions at Fortune 500 companies as of June 30, and 16.6 percent of board seats.  These figures show deplorably slow progress in boosting female representation according to a report published by Catalyst, a non-profit researcher studying women and business.

Catalyst’s research indicates growth in female corporate leadership has stalled.  There are a few exceptions:  Meg Whitman at HP, who no one wants to mention given there seems to be nothing she can do to save the drowning HP.  Already mentioned, Marissa Mayer’s rise to the top job at Yahoo, and Sheryl Sandberg’s board-seat victory at Facebook Inc. are certainly the exceptions.

In fact, by December 31, 2012, fewer than one-fifth of the Fortune 500 had 25 percent or more board seats filled by women, while more than a quarter had no women at all in executive roles, according to the Catalyst data.

“The lack of progress toward closing this gender leadership gap is, to put it frankly, troubling,” Rachel Soares, a senior research associate at New York-based Catalyst and lead author of the report, quoted in a Business Insider article. “The companies that are taking deliberate and sustained actions to advance women in leadership are in the vast minority, and all the work that they’re doing is only providing enough momentum to maintain the status quo of women lagging men,” Soares said.

Those of you who know me well understand this is a key passion point for me, and in fact the subject of my second book which is already underway.  Apparently I am not alone, with Sheryl Sandberg planning to release her book in the spring.  Women have an important place in business, especially in the Participation Age.  For those of you who have forgotten, re-read Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique.

And, if you wish to see a few more female faces on the advertising creative industry list, provide some feedback to Business Insider here.  This doesn’t make up for the lack of female faces on the leader list, but is better than nothing at all.