Increasing Women in Executive Leadership Positions in 2021

Women in leadership

Women are a force to be reckoned with in the workplace. They are strong, determined and just as hardworking as their male counterparts. Research has also shown that Fortune 500 companies with a high representation of women on their boards regularly outperform those that do not. This all translates to more profitable companies. It’s reported that companies where at least 30% of leaders are women can expect to add more than 1% point to their net margin compared with other companies with no to limited female leadership. Some companies that increased the number of female partners by 10% actually saw 9.7% more profitable returns. Furthermore, having women in leadership roles creates less gender discrimination in recruitment, promotion and retention. This allows companies to hire and keep the most qualified people. And, according to studies, workplaces with hire diversity saw all of their employees experiencing less burnout and increased satisfaction in one’s work.

With all of the positives that women can contribute to companies, many Americans would expect to see shared gender equality in workplace boardrooms. However, that is still not the case. In fact, as of 2018, over half of the United States is female, with women earning 57% of undergraduate degrees and 59% of all master’s degrees, and yet women hold less than half of the leadership positions in the United States. And, among the world’s largest 500 companies, only 10.9% of senior executives are women. Here are some other startling statistics about women in the workforce:

  • In 2019, women working full-time were making 82.3 cents for every dollar their male counterparts made. As of 2021, women are still getting paid 17.7% less annually than men.
  • Only 5.5% of CEOs among 3,000 of the largest U.S. companies are women.
  • Just 33 women held the position of CEO at a Fortune 500 company in 2020. And, at the beginning of 2021, it was reported that the female CEO of JCPenny would be replaced by a male.
  • The number of women on executive boards and in C-suite positions has not changed much since 2019. In fact, the pipeline to achieving a junior or even senior-level professional position as a woman may actually be tightening, with even fewer women holding titles like SVP, VP, Director and Manager in 2021 than in 2019.
  • Only 1 in 4 organizations say advancing women is a top 10 business priority for their company.

Companies and Organizations Working to Increase Workplace Diversity in Leadership

While the statistics may be unnerving, especially for women in the workforce, there has been some improvement, even though limited. The number of women holding the position of CEO at Fortune 500 companies is at an all-time high. In fact, the number of women CEOs rose by 2% in 2020. While not statistically unique to the United States, 29% of all senior management roles, globally, are fulfilled by women, and 87% of global businesses have at least one woman in a senior management position. And, while the growth is limited, many women in leadership are hopeful for the future. 

“2020 might have been a difficult year, but this demonstrates that the time is now for women to move from C-suite to CEOs and boards and all sectors,” said the CEO of Women Business Collaborative, Edie Fraser. “We expect accelerated progress in 2021.” 

Businessmen and women like Fraser have a right to be optimistic. Even though the goal for equality in leadership is being achieved at a snail’s pace so far, more and more companies are setting diversity goals. For example, the following companies have set these goals for recruiting women for leadership positions or providing resources for women in their company to grow:

  • Cognizant employed 100,000 women by the end of 2020 and is continuing to grow.
  • Goldman Sachs is working towards making 40% of its executive vice presidents women.
  • Intel aims to double the number of women in senior roles by 2030.
  • Hilton holds a [email protected] conference for team members to network and take training seminars.
  • Visa offers equal opportunities and equal pay among men and women and pushes programs like its Return to Work initiative to encourage and support women re-entering the workforce after taking time off to have a family.

Furthermore, in the last decade or so, some organizations were created solely to create even more promising statistics in regard to workplace gender diversity. For example, in 2015, Girls Who Invest, a non-profit organization, was created to increase the number of women in portfolio management and executive leadership in the asset management industry. Through their efforts, more than 800 women have completed the organization’s training courses and applied their learning to their field.

Since 2011, the Thirty Percent Coalition has worked to influence companies to increase the number of women in the corporate boardroom. They have now added to their efforts to include increasing racial and ethnic diversity of the United States workforce, alongside gender, and their members now represent $7 trillion in assets under management.

Robert F. Smith on Supporting Women in Leadership 

These organizations, and others that support diversity in the boardroom, have support from many executives across numerous companies, including Blackstone, the Carlyle Group and Vista Equity Partners. Robert F. Smith, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, is a proud supporter of both Thirty Percent Coalition and Girls Who Invest, as well as increasing gender and racial diversity in the workplace as a whole. Aside from providing his support to the aforementioned organizations, he is involved with Columbia University’s, his alma mater, incentive to increase female leadership in technology. In 2018, he co-sponsored a conference on the issue, known as “Women’s Business Leadership in Tech: From Talk to Action,” which nearly 300 participants attended.

Smith also made a significant contribution to his other alma mater, Cornell University, to help address the poor representation of women, as well as minority students, in engineering programs. Few women enrolling in technology programs like engineering is contributing to the low representation of female leadership in the technology industry and, subsequently, boardroom. In fact, Robert F. Smith and the Fund II Foundation, of which he is the founding director and President, made a combined gift of $50 million to Cornell University’s engineering department.

To see Robert F. Smith at “Women’s Business Leadership in Tech: From Talk to Action,” watch the conference on YouTube. And check out other ways Smith is supporting women