ALEXANDER H. TULLO, C&EN NORTHEAST NEWS BUREAU
Once again, C&EN's annual survey of corporate boards and top executives at 42 U.S. chemical companies shows embarrassingly low representation of women. However, as in previous years, there was slow and steady progress.
In its survey of boards of directors, C&EN consults annual reports, 10-K filings with the Securities & Exchange Commission, and proxy statements to discern the makeup of corporate boards at the beginning of the year. Of the 432 directors found for 2003, 12.5% are women. This is up from 11.5% of 435 positions in last year's survey. Both fewer positions and more female directors contributed to the gain.
In its survey of executive officers, C&EN consults 10-Ks and annual reports. Of the 409 positions found this year, 7.3% are held by women. Last year, C&EN found 6.7% women out of 431 positions--a seemingly solid gain but actually modest when seen in light of a significant decrease in the number of executive officer positions at the companies surveyed.
Also, C&EN's survey found that, again, there is no woman at the 42 companies who serves as a chief executive officer, chief financial officer, or chief operating officer. Many companies, however, operate without a COO.
Moreover, out of the 42 companies, six do not have women on their boards at all. None of the companies surveyed has women that are both employed at the company and are directors.
A whopping 23 out of the 42 don't have women executive officers. And out of the 30 women listed as executive officers, only six run businesses within their companies. Most of the others have financial, administrative, legal, and other support positions.
The muses for the C&EN scorecard are the surveys conducted by Catalyst, a New York City-based nonprofit research group that specializes in women in business. In its survey of women serving as corporate officers at Fortune 500 companies in 2002, released last November, Catalyst reported that 15.7% of the 13,673 positions found were women. This is a sharp increase from 12.5% in 2000 and 8.7% in 1995.
The chemical industry clearly lags behind the rest of the corporate world in the number of women in its corporate officer ranks.
However, this is not true for corporate boards. In its last survey of corporate boards, in December 2001, Catalyst found that 12.4% of the directors at Fortune 500 and 10.9% at Fortune 1,000 companies were women. A year's time difference might explain why the chemical industry is slightly ahead.
For executives, the difference is overstated because Catalyst and C&EN use a slightly different methodology for executives. C&EN tracks corporate executives as listed on the 10-K; Catalyst asks companies for a list of corporate officers. The latter method polls more people, reaching into lower levels of management where a greater percentage of women are employed. For example, in its 2002 survey, Catalyst found that 13 chemical companies listed 335 positions, 9.9% of which were held by women.
The chemical industry clearly is behind its peers in similar sectors.
However, the chemical industry clearly is behind its peers in similar sectors. In the pharmaceutical industry, according to Catalyst, 15.7% of 261 corporate officer positions at 10 companies were held by women.
THE INDUSTRY is aware of the problem. Dow Chemical was a company partner in "Leaders in a Global Economy," billed as the "largest cross-company study of global executives and the relationship between gender and career advancement."
The study released in May had a number of findings. For one, female executives are more likely than their male counterparts to have made important life decisions to balance their personal and professional lives. For instance, 35% of women, but only 12% of men, polled reported that they delayed having children.
The study also found different treatment of men and women isn't necessarily the key to helping executives succeed. Instead, factors such as getting challenging assignments were overwhelmingly cited as being helpful in career development of both men and women. However, women were more likely than men to rate work-life and diversity programs as being important. In addition, both men and women said having a mentor was important, though many women complained about having few female role models.
Virginie Hough, design leader for global work-life at Dow, says her company takes these lessons to heart. The company has adopted flexible work schedules and telecommuting to accommodate personal needs. "One thing that Dow uses to attract and retain women is to maintain a culture of flexibility," she says.
And to ensure women have support from other female executives, the company offers an organization, the Women's Innovation Network, that is the oldest of six diversity networks at Dow. The others help African Americans, Asian Americans, gays and lesbians, Hispanics, and people with disabilities.
Some companies have numerical targets for the number of women that they would like to have in top positions. In Europe, DuPont wants to double the percentage of female employees--currently about 20% professional and 6% in executive positions--over the next five years.
DuPont says the legality of such a target in the U.S. is questionable, and Dow shies from what it labels as "quotas" throughout its organization. However, such quotas may be the trend. In Norway, there is legislation on the table that would mandate that women comprise 40% of corporate boards of public Norwegian companies by 2005. This mandate was suggested because of the slow progress women have made in gaining board positions in recent years.
IT'S REIGNING MEN
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The chemical industry still had low representation of women in management in 2002