NEW YORK -- Women's progress in getting the top jobs in American business is so slow that at the current rate they are becoming corporate officers, it would take 40 years before women catch up with men, according to a survey released yesterday.
Women occupied only 16.4 percent of corporate officer positions in Fortune 500 companies in 2005, according to an annual survey by the nonprofit group Catalyst, which tracks women's progress in business leadership jobs.
More than one-half of the Fortune 500 had fewer than three women corporate officers, the survey found. Women held only 6.4 percent of top earner positions, up 1.2 percentage points from 2002. Over the last 10 years, Catalyst estimated the growth rate of women gaining leadership jobs was 0.82 percent.
Representation of women of color only increased 0.3 percentage points between 2002, when it stood at 1.8 percent, and 2005, when it reached 2.1 percent. Catalyst called this ``an alarming development, considering the demographic shifts under way in U S and world markets and workforces."
Part of what's holding women back is their place in their companies, according to the survey. Seventy-one percent of women in the survey held staff positions, in areas such as human resources and public relations that are viewed as having only an indirect effect on a company's financial results. Only 29 percent held line positions, in areas such as sales and operations where job holders have profit and loss responsibility. In contrast 52 percent of men in the survey held staff positions, while 48 percent held line positions.
In 2005, women held 10.6 percent of line positions, while men held 89.4 of line positions. At the same time, women held 21.1 percent of staff positions, compared to 78.9 percent for men.
Catalyst maintains that women can improve financial results, saying companies with the highest percentages of women corporate officers have an average 35.1 percent higher return on equity and 34 percent higher total return to shareholders than those with the lowest percentages of women corporate officers.