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ACM Careers

Women Are Stalling Out on the Way to the Top

woman among male coworkers, illustration

Although the percentages of woman has increased in functional roles, those jobs rarely put leaders on track to become CEO.

Credit: The i Spot

An analysis of the career histories and demographics of about 4,000 executives in the ten highest-ranking jobs in Fortune 100 companies during the past 40 years found that gender representation has improved, adding that there was nowhere to go but up. Women remain largely stuck in support functions rather than moving into key operating roles.

Despite accounting for 47% of the U.S. labor force, women held just 27% of the Fortune 100's top leadership positions in 2021. That's a huge advance since 1980, but still far from equal representation. One reason for the increase is because the composition of the Fortune 100 shifted from industries that tended to employ fewer women (manufacturing and steel in 1980) to those that employ more (financial services, health care, insurance, and retail in 2021).

In 2011, women accounted for 50% of the top executives at Pepsico and Lockheed Martin, and 40% at Coca-Cola, General Electric, and IBM. But by 2021, those percentages had dropped by half at some of these companies. One lesson is that the advancement of women has not been a linear process. Innearly every other company listed since 1980, there has been a huge uptick followed by backsliding.

From MIT Sloan Management Review
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