Who Is Breaking the Glass Ceiling?

Who is breaking the glass ceiling? We all know it’s true: the corporate world has long been dominated by male leaders. (Something I’m working hard to change, by the way!) Even so, we have seen a gradual shift in the past few decades with workplaces becoming more diverse and inclusive. Heck, the Vice President of the United States of America is a woman of color. 

It’s not possible to get a breakdown of gender, culture, and color for every company across the country, but we can look at certain data points that track the number of female CEOs in the nation’s top companies to get an idea of where we stand today. 

The Landscape Right Now 

According to the most recent data, women make up only about 10% of CEOs in major corporations. While this indicates some improvement over the years, it still underscores the persistence of gender disparity in leadership roles. 

For as much lip service towards diversity as there is in most workplaces today, the real proof is in the number and I am just not seeing them where they should be yet. The pace of change has been far too gradual. 

Fortune Facts 

We looked at the stats available on Fortune 100, 500, and 1000 companies and found a few surprises.

Fortune 500 companies came in with the lowest amount of representation of female CEO’s and those glass ceilings remain the toughest to crack. Women currently lead just over 7% of these major corporations. While this figure is an improvement from previous years, the slow rate of progress indicates that we still have a long way to go to achieve parity.

By expanding our analysis to include Fortune 1000 companies, we can see better – but still limited – progress. General reporting implies that women hold around 10% of CEO positions in this broader group. This may indicate that the push for gender diversity is gradually permeating a wider spectrum of corporations. (But that doesn’t mean we can take our foot off the gas!) 

Perhaps most surprising were the numbers in the data set for Fortune 100s, representing an elite subset of corporations. Here, we found an even better showing of female leaders. Women currently hold around 12% of CEO positions in Fortune 100 companies. It seems that larger, more influential organizations are making more strides toward gender diversity in leadership than some of their less sizeable counterparts. 

A ‘Minor’ Problem 

When we consider the intersectionality of gender and race, the data reveals a stark reality. Among female CEOs, only a fraction belong to minority groups. While the overall percentage of female CEOs hovers around 10%, women of color fill a significantly lower number of these roles. Estimates indicate that just 3% are women of color. 

A Glass Half Full 

We can look at this in one of two ways: we can be disheartened by the numbers and the slow march of progress, or we can celebrate the progress that has been made. Or, perhaps, both. Initiatives aimed at fostering inclusivity and breaking down gender stereotypes are contributing to this positive shift and I believe we are heading in the right direction. 

And here’s an exciting bit of news: S&P Global Market Intelligence predicts that women executives at the 3,000 largest publicly traded companies in the U.S. may reach parity with men in senior leadership positions sometime between 2030 and 2037.

We All Play a Part 

You can be an agent of change regardless of where you work and what rung of the ladder you are currently on. Encourage company leadership to prioritize strategies that address the unique challenges faced by women of color in the corporate world. Help create mentorship programs, foster diverse talent pipelines, and actively combat bias in hiring and promotion processes. These are crucial steps you can advocate for. Taken together, they will help us rise toward that 2030 prediction. What a world that will be!

Lisa L. Baker - Certified Personal, Career, Success and Life Coach

Lisa L. Baker is a professional life coach, career strategist, and keynote speaker. Lisa is the founder of Ascentim – a Maryland-based coaching practice that utilizes a unique G.R.O.W. process to help clients gain clarity, realize new possibilities, overcome obstacles, and win at life. Lisa shows high-performing professionals how to Level Up and Live the Life of Their Dreams.

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