A common misconception exists: that women have achieved equality and we can all check that issue of the to-do list. Not quite. Not even close. Sure, the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote just 89 years ago. And in 1972 Title IX helped opened doors for girls and women in sports. Just this year, President Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Act, reversing a Supreme Court ruling that restricted the amount of time women had to file paycheck discrimination claims. Today we can cite examples of women CEOs, elected officials and star athletes. But they are still only examples. A new report from the White House Project called “Benchmarks” reveals women represent only 18 percent of leadership positions. And the wage gap still exists. Women earn, on average, 78 cents for every dollar a man earns. For women of color, the percentages are even lower.
The White House Project is a not-for-profit organization working to advance women’s leadership in all communities and sectors. Last week, the group invited Care2 to a conference call to discuss the findings of the report. Here is the data by industry sector:
Academia: While women represent 57 percent of all college students, they are only 26 percent of full professors and 23 percent of university presidents. Women faculty members earn, on average, 82 percent of what male faculty earn. That’s a full percentage point lower than what they earned 37 years ago.
Business: Women represent a mere three percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, six percent of the top paying positions and 16 percent of directors. And yet, women comprise half of the workforce.
Film and Television: Just 16 percent of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, and cinematographers are women. On-screen representation isn’t much better.
Journalism: Despite the fact women have been the majority of journalism school graduates since 1977, they represent only 18 percent of newspaper publishers, 20 percent of radio station directors and 28 percent of television news directors.
Law: Women are almost half of all law school graduates but they are missing from the partnership ranks at law firms. They are 18 percent of law partners and 25 percent of all judges. And their salaries are sliding. Male equity partners earn $90,000 more than women partners.
Military: Fifteen percent of all military officers are women. This is up just two percent in 15 years.
Non Profit: At first glance, the nonprofit sector looks fairly balanced. Women are 45 percent of the CEOS. But when you look at the size of the organizations, the data is less promising. At nonprofit organizations with budgets of $25 million or more, women make up just 21 percent of the CEOS. Women CEOS earn 66 percent of what their male counterparts earn. And yet, the majority of employees (73 percent) in this sector are women.
Politics: Women are 17 percent of the Congress. There are no women of color in the Senate and we have never had a female president or vice president.
Religion: Women represent a majority of churchgoers in this country but men are the majority of clergy. Women make up 15 percent of Protestant clergy and rabbis and are prohibited from ministerial roles in the Catholic Church.
Sports: Twenty-one percent of college athletic directors are women. Even in women’s leagues, men dominate. Seven of the 13 WBA coaches are men.
It is difficult to reconcile this data when you consider the fact Americans have expressed an openness to women as leaders across all sectors. According to an annual poll conducted by GfK/ Roper Public Opinion Polls on behalf of The White House Project, this comfort level has increased from 77 percent in 2002 to 89 percent in 2007.
And it is imperative to correct this imbalance when you consider that women have surpassed men on the national payroll. The Center for Work-Life Policy and the Concours Group caution that unless we promote women into the leadership ranks we will face a serious shortage of talent in our workforce. Couple that with the growing body of literature that shows the correlation between women at the top and stronger bottom lines, and achieving gender parity at the top becomes more than a social issue. It is a matter of righting our economy, protecting our democracy and strengthening our ability to innovate and lead.