NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Women Struggle to the Top

February 6, 2004

"Work hard and girls can do anything the boys can do." This familiar claim is not as true as one might think. Despite the fact that girls spend more time reading and working on homework, outperforming boys in grades, admissions and extracurricular activities, they repeatedly lose the ladder-climbing race in the corporate world.

A recent Catalyst study of women in corporate leadership roles found:

  • Women account for only 15.7 percent of corporate-officer positions and 5.2 percent of top earners at Fortune 500 companies in 2002
  • Only 9.9 percent of line corporate-officer jobs -- where they would be overseeing operations that earn money for their company -- compared to 91.1 percent for men.

Why is there still such a low number of women in these leadership roles? Researchers and female execs themselves mention a few reasons: male executive's reluctance to mentor women, women's exclusion from informal networks, a hesitancy to consider women for the toughest posts, and women's own struggle to balance careers and families -- sometimes leading them to settle for less-demanding jobs.

Women also often are not comfortable promoting themselves and their accomplishments; more often than not, women are passed up for promotions and raises.

To increase the representation of women in corporate leadership, say observers, women need mentors, to learn negotiating skills and to seek out a work environment that recognizes their talents and rewards their accomplishments.

Source: Carol Hymowitz, "Women Put Noses To the Grindstone, And Miss Opportunities," Wall Street Journal, February 3, 2004.

For WSJ text (subscription required),,SB107575975625718372-search,00.html


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