A recently released study by the UC Davis Graduate School of Management found that California women are grossly underrepresented in leadership roles of corporations.
According to the study, women hold 10.6 percent of board seats and top executive positions, up only .04 percent from 2006 numbers. Similarly, the survey found that there are no female board members or executives in 118 of California’s 400 largest companies.
Representation has been stagnant in the five years since the first Study of California Women Business Leaders was published.
Eight GSM students collected data in collaboration with the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and Executives (FWE&E), the only non-profit organization that supports women across all industries.
Women are most represented in the leadership positions of retail companies. Cosmetic brand Bare Essentials took first place, with women comprising 50 percent of their directors and executives. Bebe clothing and Jack in the Box were also among the top five for women’s representation.
National Semiconductor, Callaway Golf and Quiksilver were among companies without women in executive offices or boardrooms.
Although results do not include research on contributing factors to female representation, the directors of the study each associate different factors with the low levels.
“The reason why is not because we don’t want to, but rather external factors like the status quo and discrimination,” said Jacqueline Jaszka, a UCD GSM student who worked on the study. “Women should continue to pursue leadership positions to show that they are capable and strong.”
Corporate culture, sociological perspectives and women’s skill sets are all potential causes of the gap between men and women in the work place, said Wendy Beecham, CEO of FWE&E.
FWE&E teaches women skills and self-branding to help shatter stereotypes and break through conditions like the status quo and persistent corporate culture.
Donald Palmer, associate dean of GSM, said low female promotion rates within companies might be to blame.
This year, GSM introduced a social responsibility measurement to the survey, which is based on the extent of a company’s environmentally sustainable policies, the magnitude of negative impacts and its reputation for being environmentally responsible.
The study found that companies with women in leadership positions tend to be more socially responsible. This was the only area of the study in which women held the most leadership positions.
“Women tend to gravitate toward roles where they find meaning in their work and in their life,” Beecham said.
Current representation of women in corporations may be damaging more than women’s status. Research conducted outside of the U.S. has shown that diversity of all kinds, including gender, provides potential for adaptability and creativity, and improves company success.
Norway and Spain have already imposed diversity quotas, and California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) have followed suit by requiring diversity portfolios from the companies they invest in.
GABRIELLE GROW can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.