In Corporate America, Still a Struggle for Female Execs


Study after study has demonstrated the income disparity between women and men. Not surprisingly, this gender discrimination carries all the way into America's boardrooms and corporate suites, where women continue to be underrepresented. To get a clearer understanding of the country's continuing glass ceiling, 24/7 Wall St. took a hard look at the gender makeup of America's 10 most valuable companies.

For the top companies, based on market cap, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed proxies for board and management composition, as well as data from the investor relations sections of the companies on this list. In order to compare all of the companies on the same basis, we used SEC data as our primary source for information, although we also examined company documents and public comments made by the companies about equal opportunity, particularly as it pertains to women.

Gallery: Companies Where Women Executives Are Lacking or Missing

Women executives gallery
Women executives gallery

1. ExxonMobil

  • Number of women on board: 1 of 11

  • Number of women named executives: 0 of 5

  • Total employees: 83,600

The largest energy company in the world has just one female board member, Marilyn Carlson Nelson, the chairperson of Carlson Companies. Regarding executives, Exxon's SEC filings list no women and its website -- which notes that the company has 24 senior execs -- doesn't name any women. On the other hand, further research has revealed that only two of the officers are women.

On its website, Exxon states "that creating economic opportunities for women is one of the wisest investments we can make." In 2005, it launched the Women's Economic Opportunity Initiative -- "a global effort that helps women fulfill their economic potential and drive economic and social change in their communities."

2. Apple

  • Number of women on board: 1 of 7

  • Number of women named executives: 0 of 9

  • Total employees: 46,600

While Apple famously encouraged consumers to "Think Different," its boardroom is surprisingly traditional, at least when it comes to the gender mix. Of seven board members, only one is female: Andrea Jung, chairperson and CEO of Avon Products. Meanwhile, Steve Jobs' nine-person management team is entirely composed of men. That might have something to do with Cosmopolitan magazine's decision to rank the Apple Store as one of "the best places to meet a guy." Noting that "More men than ever are stopping by Apple boutiques," the magazine added that "the vibe at the stores is conducive to man meeting."

3. Microsoft

  • Number of women on board: 2 of 9

  • Number of women named executives: 2 of 6

  • Total employees: 90,000

None of Steve Ballmer's senior management is female, but two of the members of the board are: Dina Dublon, the former CFO of JPMorgan and Dr. Maria Klawe, the president of Harvey Mudd College, both hold seats. The company has had a Women Employee Resource Group since 1990, which, in addition to other goals, spearheads diversity initiatives. Microsoft also runs a Graduate Women's Scholarship Program.

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4. IBM

  • Number of women on board: 2 of 12

  • Number of women named executives: 1 of 4

  • Total employees: 436,085

One of the world's largest employers and one of America's oldest large companies, IBM sports two women on its board of directors: Joan E. Spero and Shirley Ann Jackson. Spero is a former executive vice president at American Express and the head of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, while Jackson is president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Women are also underrepresented in Big Blue's executive offices, where only two of its 13 execs are women. Still, the company's female representation was impressive enough to net it a sixth place position in the National Association for Female Executives' Top 30 Companies for Executive Women for 2010. This ranking considers the number of women in senior ranks and the policies that support women's advancement.

5. Chevron

  • Number of women on board: 1 of 13

  • Number of women named executives: 0 of 6

  • Total employees: 62,000

When it comes to gender, the make-up of Chevron's board and management are not terribly different from Exxon's. The company's sole female director, Linnet F. Deily, has been on the board since 2006. Before coming to Chevron, she was a Deputy U.S. Trade Representative and U.S. Ambassador to the World Trade Organization.

Chevron's website provides a longer list of management than the one in its SEC filing. The site shows 18 corporate officers, three of whom are women, including the CFO, the head of policy and planning, and the corporate secretary. In April 2011, the Women's Business Enterprise National Council "recognized Chevron as a top corporation for women's business enterprises" for the 11th time. According to Chevron, "this is the only national award honoring corporations for programs that create level playing fields for women's businesses to compete for corporate contracts."

6. Google

  • Number of women on board: 2 of 9

  • Number of women named executives: 1 of 7

  • Total employees: 28,768

While Google is famous for its impressive R&D and inventive power, it is a bit less advanced when it comes to hiring women. Out of nine board members, only two are women: Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman and Ann Mather, who is also on the boards of MoneyGram International and Netflix. As far as female executive officers are concerned, things are a bit more confusing: Google's SEC filing suggests that one of its seven named execs is a woman, but the company's website only features six execs, all of whom are men. On the other hand, Google does encourage success among women through a number of awards, including the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship and the Google India Women in Engineering Award.

7. Walmart

  • Number of women on board: 3 of 15 members

  • Number of women named executives: 0 of 6

  • Total employees: 2,100,000

Walmart, the world's biggest private employer, is a mixed bag for women, at least when it comes to corporate governance. Of 15 board members, three are women: Linda S. Wolf, formerly of ad agency Leo Burnett; M. Michele Burns, head of Mercer Human Resource Consulting; and Aida M. Alvarez, a former head of the Small Business Administration. Seven of its 37 senior managers are women, but none of its named executives are. And outside the corporate suite, things are also tough for women: While the U.S. Supreme Court rejected this summer's $1.5 million class-action lawsuit alleging gender discrimination, a recent poll conducted by the Organization United for Respect at Walmart found continued and widespread dissatisfaction among women at the retailer.

8. Berkshire-Hathaway

  • Number of women on board: 2 of 12 members

  • Number of women named executives: 0 of 3

  • Total employees: 260,000

Run by famed investing pair Warren Buffett and Charles Munger, Berkshire-Hathaway only lists three "named" officers, all of whom are men. The board is more diverse, with two female members -- Charlotte Guyman, formerly of Microsoft, and Sue Decker, the former president of Yahoo!. Outside the boardroom, however, women remain rare: the company's five best-known subsidiaries -- Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., GEICO Auto Insurance, NetJets, Benjamin Moore & Co., and Johns Manville -- all have male chief executives.

9. AT&T

  • Number of women on board: 4 of 12 members

  • Number of women named executives: 0 of 5

  • Total employees: 258,870

America's largest fixed-telephone provider has five female directors: Laura D'Andrea Tyson, Joyce M. Roché and Lynn M. Martin. The trio sports some impressive credentials: Tyson is a professor at the Walter A. Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, and is also on the board of Eastman Kodak Company; Roché is a former CEO of Girls Incorporated, and Martin is a former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Congresswomen.

Out of 11 senior managers that AT&T lists on its website, there is only one woman: Catherine M. Coughlin, the company's Senior Executive Vice President and Global Marketing Officer. In 2009, the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) named AT&T "one of America's Top Corporations for Women's Business Enterprises."

10. Procter & Gamble

  • Number of women on board: 3 of 10 members

  • Number of women named executives: 0 of 6

  • Total employees: 129,000

Procter & Gamble, one of the largest consumer products companies in the world, has five women on its 11-person board. Two of these members -- former eBay CEO Margaret Whitman, and University of California Chancellor Susan Desmond -- joined the board within the last two months; the other three include WellPoint CEO Angela F. Braly, Frontier Communications CEO Mary Agnes Wilderotter, and Archer Daniels Midland Company CEO Patricia A. Woertz. Outside of the boardroom, women are notably missing from P&G's executive suites: the company's senior management is entirely male, and it has no named executive officers.

Still, Procter & Gamble has been recognized as a leader in gender-balanced governance: in May 2011, Women Corporate Directors awarded it the first ever WCD Visionary Award. According to the company, the award recognizes P&G "as an outstanding top performer with three or more women board members serving as a role model in both corporate leadership and best governance practices."