Friday, November 21, 2008

Have women really made gains in politics?

Well, Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York appear poised to accept cabinet positions in the Obama administration. See the news reports here and here. These appointments are certainly good news for women, but this will not be the first cabinet to include at least two women.

So, a headline from UC Davis news service today took me by surprise. It reads: "Women's Gains in Politics Not Seen in Board Rooms, CEO Offices," and you can read the full story here. The part that surprised me was that women are perceived as having made gains in politics, presumably recently. Really? Did the 2008 race for the President really change anything? We've had a woman as VP nominee before. We've had women run for President before, though none have come as close to the nomination as Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The lack of women in executive suites, on the other hand, is hardly news at all. Nevertheless, here are some highlights from the article, which features data from the recent UC Davis Study of California Women Business Leaders.
Half of California's 400 largest public companies have no women in top executive offices, according to a study reported today by University of California, Davis, researchers. Almost half do not have a woman on the board of directors. Nearly a third -- including household names McAfee, Quicksilver and Hansen Natural -- do not have a woman in either a top executive post or on the governing board.

The fourth annual UC Davis Study of California Women Business Leaders found that only 13 of California's 400 largest public companies have a woman CEO. Overall, women hold just 10.9 percent of board seats and executive positions -- insignificant progress from 2007, when the figure was 10.4 percent, and from 2006 and 2005, when it was 10.2 percent.

"Time and time again, studies prove that businesses with women in leadership positions thrive. In our current economic situation, California's companies can't afford to ignore the talents of women," said Rosario Marin, secretary of the California State and Consumer Services Agency and a former U.S. treasurer. "It's time to stop focusing on our women leaders' pantsuits or hairstyles and start placing value on how these women are making their companies more efficient and effective -- and get that leadership in place at companies across our state."

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