Women Still Trail In Leadership Roles At Top California Firms

By Mark Glover
The Sacramento Bee.

Women hold only about 1 in 9 executive and board positions among California’s top public companies and continue to earn less than their male counterparts, according to an annual UC Davis study that examines gender diversity in boardrooms and executive suites.

The 10th annual “Study of California Women Business Leaders,” released by the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, said women hold 11.5 percent of the highest-paid executive positions and board seats in the state’s 400 largest public companies, a slight increase of 0.6 percent over last year. The findings are based on company filings with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, as of Sept. 14.

Only two companies, organic food maker Annie’s Inc. of Berkeley and upscale kitchen and cookware retailer Williams-Sonoma of San Francisco, have equal numbers of women and men in top executive positions and board seats.

The McClatchy Co., publisher of The Sacramento Bee, ranked 12th on the list, with women as 31.3 percent of its corporate leadership.

“We cannot grow impatient. Not yet,” said Ann Huff Stevens, dean of the UCD management school, in a statement. She said the “Lean In” movement, promoted in a book by Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, “has highlighted the need to encourage and assist more women to take a seat at the table.”

Last September, the state Legislature passed a resolution, authored by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, calling for California’s publicly held companies to name more women leaders by 2016. Believed to be the first such resolution of its kind in the United States, it urges California companies with nine or more board seats to have at least three held by women in three years; boards with fewer than five members are urged to name at least one woman.

“The good news is that California companies have made progress,” said Jackson, in a statement Friday, noting that the percentage of women has “inched up” from last year.

“But progress has been too slow, incremental and unsatisfying,” she added. California needs to take the lead in encouraging companies to bring more women into executive positions. “Studies consistently show that having women serve in the boardroom and in top leadership positions is not only good for women, it’s good for business and the economy.”

Of the state’s 400 largest companies, the UCD 2014 study said only 14 have women CEOs, up from 11 in 2006.

The study also found slight improvement in the number of companies that have no women in leadership roles. It said 101 companies — 25 percent of California’s largest companies — have no women executives or board members, down from 107 companies last year.

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