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The Corporate Gender Gap

An article in today’s Wall Street Journal touts the fact that women in the business world are “breaking stereotypes about what women can and can’t do well, and opening up new opportunities for women who will follow them.”

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The article points out the fact that women are increasingly found in top jobs at a wide range of businesses, as opposed to only companies whose products cater to female customers, which had historically been the case. It also mentions how women holding top jobs at nonprofits and regulatory committees are influencing how business is conducted.

No doubt, these are encouraging trends. But the overall statistics about gender in the business world remain dismal.

According to Catalyst, a New York, N.Y. research firm, only 16.4 percent of corporate officer jobs at Fortune 500 companies were held by women in 2005. That’s only 0.7 percentage points higher than it was in 2002. Furthermore, only eight Fortune 500 companies had female CEOs and women constituted only 6.4 percent of the top five earners among corporate officers.

So before we get too caught up with the good news, remember that women make up 51 percent of the U.S. population, and no matter how you dress the numbers, that 16.4 percent seems more concerning than consoling.

What do you think the numbers will look like three years from now? What should be done in the next three years to address this discrepancy?

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