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Fortune 500 Glass Ceiling Endures: Only 5% of CEOs are Women

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the number of female CEO’s among Fortune 500 companies has dwindled to just 5.4% (27 out of 500).  This statistic alone helps illustrate the persistent presence of glass ceiling / promotion discrimination within corporate America.

Historical context

While the number of female CEOs remains troubling low, it should not cloud the overall (albeit far too slow) strides that women have made in getting the top jobs in Fortune 500 companies.

For example, the WSJ reports that in 1995 the number of Fortune 500 female CEOs was 0 (zero), while 32 female CEOs were in place as of June 2017 (that number has since dropped to 27).

Ultimately, however, the fact remains that the number of female CEOs, as well as female board members and other senior corporate positions, remains far below the expected proportion given the number of women in the workforce.

Alas, according to the WSJ:

So intractable does the issue seem that one in four Americans believes they are more likely to see time travel during their lifetime than they are to see women running half of Fortune 500 firms, according to a 2017 survey conducted for the Rockefeller Foundation.

glass ceiling discrimination; promotion discrimination; Title VII;What causes glass ceiling / promotion discrimination?

A variety of factors are tied to glass ceiling / promotion discrimination, including:

  • entrenched attitudes/stereotypes about what type(s) of people should get the “top” jobs at the company;
  • subjective/hard to define qualifications for promotions that introduce conscious or unconscious biases into decision-making; and/or
  • a lack of networking and mentoring opportunities for women and people of color.

Although the precise structure of a glass ceiling can vary from company to company, its discriminatory effects are undeniable and often devastating to those unable to break through it.  And according to one report, the average female employee loses $10,000 per year due to the wage gap between men and women.

Likewise, certain signs exist in companies that may facilitate glass ceiling / promotion discrimination.  For example, a lack of an effective mentoring program and tepid, even antagonistic, “tone at the top” views on diversity.

© 2019 Zuckerman Law


About this Author

Eric Bachman, Discrimination Attorney, Zuckerman Law Firm
Of Counsel

Eric Bachman is Chair of the Discrimination and Retaliation practices at Zuckerman Law and has served in senior positions at the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.  Bachman’s wins include a $100 million settlement in a disparate impact Title VII class action, a record-setting Whistleblower Protection Act settlement at OSC, and a $16 million class action settlement against a major grocery chain.  Bachman holds extensive litigation experience, including trials in federal and state courts, and has also set important...

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