By Melissa Harris
This is what stagnation looks like.
As of 2013, nearly 85 percent of the executive officers at the 50 largest publicly traded companies in Chicago were men. And 82 percent of the directors of those companies were men.
Continuing a four-year trend, nine companies had no women executive officers, while four had no female board members.
It’s going to take women until 2079 to achieve equal representation in boardrooms and the executive ranks of these companies, according The Chicago Network’s annual census of local women executives.
Believe it or not, 2079 is a five-year improvement from last year’s forecast from the Network, an invite-only group of high-ranking Chicago businesswomen. That’s thanks to slight improvements in other metrics and the addition of Ulta Beauty to the ranks of Chicago’s 50 largest public companies. Ulta had four women directors and two executive officers.
“If we’re going to see improvement, more than one-third of new board members are going to need to be women,” said Kate Bensen, the Network’s chief executive.
Bensen’s second concern is the number of companies, 33 of the 50, without a woman in their top five “earners,” which is “virtually unchanged” for three years.
“That creates stagnation in the pipeline,” Bensen said. “Because those earners are where other companies go to look for potential board members.”
Here’s how the trends look over time.
The number of women on big corporate boards has climbed slowly — from 61 to 95 — since The Chicago Network began its tracking in 1998. That holds for percentages as well. Women previously held 10.1 percent of the board seats. They now hold 17.9 percent.
The number of women executive officers remains off peak but has, for the most part, climbed slowly year over year from 47 women to 79. The number of women represents 15.5 percent of all executive officers, compared with 7.1 percent in 1998.