Can't see the Forest for the Trees? Exploring Top Executive Gender Diversity among S&P 500 firms
Posted: 1 Apr 2019
Date Written: March 3, 2019
Academics have extensively studied women on boards. The number of women among the five named (i.e. best paid) executive officers in the US has also been somewhat explored. However, it appears as if researchers have not paid much attention so far to the topic of 'Executive Gender Diversity': the percentage of women among the full group of top executive as reported to the regulator (i.e.. the SEC in the US). We manually collect this data initially for 2018 S&P 500 firms and compare it to the percentage of women on boards are reported on Bloomberg. We find that firms report, on average, just over 10 executives to the SEC, which shows that studying only the five best paid executives displays less than half of the pictures. Comparing board and top executives, we observe more than 2/3 of firms to have less women among top executives than on the board. Sadly, more than one in six firms does not report any females executives at all to the SEC. The 'Household Durables' and 'Life Sciences' sectors are doing particularly badly from an executive gender diversity perspective, as their median firm has zero female top execs. More generally, less than 1 in 4 firms has more than a quarter of female executives (i.e. more than 75% of the firms have 25% or less female top execs). On a positive note, there are a few firms such as Tiffany & Co. which have more than 40% female top execs but these represent less than 5% of all S&P 500 firms. Our results suggest that executive gender diversity is professionally not as well developed as board gender diversity. For all of us academics studying gender diversity, our results imply that we may want to consider having previously rather often overlooked the forest for the trees. Consequently, we conclude that the topic of executive gender diversity (beyond just the five best paid officers) deserves significantly more attention from academics and research funding bodies.
Keywords: Executive Gender Diversity, S&P 500, Women on Boards
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