Mar 12, 2020 - Economy & Business

Women's woeful C-suite representation

Data: Fortune, author's calculations; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Less than 3% of CEOs of the world's largest companies are women. That's according to Fortune, whose annual Fortune Global 500 list featured just 14 female CEOs last year.

Why it matters: Stagnant numbers of female CEOs don't mean that nothing is happening. Rather, they mean that boards continue to perpetuate their biased hiring practices.

By the numbers: The average tenure of a global CEO is now five years, which means that in a typical year about 100 of the CEO slots at Fortune Global 500 companies will be filled with someone new.

  • If 50 of those 100 slots went to women, you would expect the number of female CEOs to more than quadruple to 61 in 2020, and then to continue to rise to 201 in 2026 and 230 in 2030.

The big picture: Don't hold your breath. In order to get to parity, the first order of business is to fix "the leaky middle," says Jewelle Bickford, a partner at Evercore Wealth Management who's co-chair of Paradigm for Parity, an organization trying to close the corporate gender gap.

  • How it works: Experienced and talented women often drop out of the workforce in their 40s and 50s when they're burdened by both children and parents who need care and attention. Predictive analytics can identify individuals at risk of dropping out and significantly improve their retention rate.

Go deeper

Women underrepresented in global boardrooms

Source: MSCI All-Country World Index. Note: Reflects boards of 3,046 publicly traded companies based in 46 countries. Chart: Axios Visuals

Female representation on corporate boards around the world has doubled in the last decade. But board members — who play a big role in corporate decision-making, and earn big money for their labors — are still much more likely to be male.

Why it matters: Today is International Women's Day, and — despite unprecedented pressure from shareholders and others to diversify boardrooms — the prospects for gender parity there are bleak. Researchers say it could take another 25 years before there are just as many women as men in boardrooms worldwide.

Slow progress for female world leaders

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

While the U.S. has yet to break the presidential glass ceiling, 57 countries worldwide have been led by women since 1960.

The big picture: That year, former Sri Lankan prime minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the modern world's first female head of state. Finland and New Zealand have led the way in electing women since, with three women leaders each.

In mayors' offices, men far outnumber women

Data: Axios research; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Out of the 50 largest U.S. cities, only 15 have female mayors. That proportion stays the same when looking at the largest 100 cities: 70% of mayors are men.

The big picture: Women are running for office at every level of government. Although Elizabeth Warren's withdrawal effectively ended the chance of electing a woman to the presidency this year, there's progress elsewhere.