Significant barrier for women in the workforce

November 19, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
There is evidence now that the so-called glass ceiling just isn't cracking in California. New research says that it is still a significant barrier for women in the workplace, and some industries are worse than others.

That executive glass ceiling in California's biggest companies is still tough for women to break through.

A new UC Davis study shows that of the state's top 400 publicly traded firms:

  • Women hold only about 10 percent of executive, officer or board seats.
  • Nearly one-third of the companies have no women in top positions at all.
  • Less than 4 percent have female CEOs.
The most notable is Carol Bartz, who heads Yahoo!.

"It certainly indicates that to the extent that women have a different perspective, that perspective is going to be lacking at the top of large firms," said lead researcher Professor Donald Palmer, Ph.D.

And it's not just this year's study that's painting this picture. The university has been looking at this for five years. The numbers have remained unchanged.

It's especially bad in the high-tech industry with almost three-quarters of the telecommunications and semiconductor industries having all-male boards.

Boards are important because they hire the CEOs, who hire other top executives. It's discouraging news for women just starting their business careers in an MBA program.

"We go through the same education. We work just as hard. It's unfair for me to work even harder just to get to the same place," said MBA student Rani Chu.

In a state known for being progressive, researchers are disappointed because national studies show the presence of women at the top dovetails with strong company performance.

"They might be more judicious in terms of assessing risk. As a result, they might perform better. You also have results, which suggests that they might perform better not only financially, but also with respect to social responsibility," said Palmer.

"I think it's a matter of trying to get more women excited about business," said MBA student Emily Rancer.

The study noted women account for 40 percent of business and management degrees, but didn't dig into why that doesn't push them into the upper ranks of the corporate world.


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