Thursday, April 24, 2014

Few cracks in glass ceiling at state’s top firms

From page A1 | December 08, 2013 | Leave Comment

UC Davis’ ninth annual survey of who has a seat in the board rooms of the state’s top 400 public companies found small progress for women.

Women hold 10.9 percent of the highest-paid executive jobs and board seats — a 1-percent increase from a year ago, according to the UCD Study of California Women Business Leaders, released Friday.

The number of companies without a female board member edged downward from 127 to 100 and, for the first time since UCD began looking at the top 400 in 2006, there are more companies with female directors than have none.

Another first: Two companies — organic food company Annie’s Inc. of Berkeley and women’s apparel company The Wet Seal Inc. of Orange County — boast more female executives and directors than male.

That’s what Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, called “good news” in a study that found that 351 of the top 400 firms do not meet the goals of a first-in-the-nation legislative resolution passed in September.

The nonbinding resolution calls for: companies with nine or more board seats to appoint three female directors, firms with five to eight directors to add at least two women and smaller boards to add at least one woman, all within the next three years.

“California is an economic powerhouse, and we have an opportunity to take the lead on this,” Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, the resolution’s author, said in a statement released Friday. “Studies consistently show that having women serve in the board room and in top leadership positions is not only good for women, it’s good for business and the economy.”

Indeed, the top 34 firms with the greatest gender diversity among their leaders brought in three times more revenue and 50 percent higher profits than the average company in the study with fewer female leaders.

“Having more women involved at the highest levels of California’s large public companies may improve their performance,” said Steven Currall, dean of the UCD Graduate School of Management, in a news release. “Much more needs to be done to diversify the top management of public corporations, so let’s take this bit of momentum — this incremental progress — and build on it.”

The survey also found that:

* At least one female director sits on the board of all 12 of the state’s public Fortune 100 companies;

* Women hold three of the five highest paid executive jobs at two of the top 25 companies in the study: iClone Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Williams-Sonoma Inc.

* The percentage of women in high-earning executive roles increased to 10.5 percent from 8.9 percent last year, with the most growth among chief financial officers;

* San Francisco leads counties with at least 20 of the surveyed firms with the highest percentage of female directors, at 17.3 percent, and San Mateo County has the largest percentage of female executives (15.4 percent);

* Alameda County has the fewest female directors (9 percent) and Orange County the fewest female executives (8.1 percent);

* As with male executives and directors, about nine of 10 female corporate  leaders are white — compared to 39 percent of the state’s population.

Annie’s and The Wet Seal tied atop the survey with 54.5 percent female leaders. Both companies have male CEOs, Davis resident John Foraker at Annie’s and John D. Goodman at The Wet Seal.

“Annie’s aims to support, promote, and develop highly capable leaders who can forward Annie’s culture of equality and excellence,” Foraker said in the news release. “From Molly Ashby, chairman of our board, to Annie (Withey), our inspirational president, to key employees throughout our company, women play an integral role in the success and growth of our brand.”

AMN Healthcare Services Inc., bebe stores Inc., BRE Properties, Deckers Outdoor Corp. and McKesson Corp. were ranked among the survey’s top 25 leaders for the sixth straight year.

UCD publishes the survey in partnership with Watermark, a Bay Area-based nonprofit that offers programs for executive women.

“There has been significant discussion recently about women ‘leaning in’ and an outpouring of executive leadership support for greater equality,” said Marilyn Nagel, Watermark’s CEO. “A new women’s movement is emerging in which women advocate for one another and have the ability to influence at the highest levels.”

— Reach Cory Golden at or 530-747-8046. Follow him on Twitter at @cory_golden

Cory Golden

Cory Golden

The Enterprise's higher-education and congressional reporter.

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