By Sheree Winslow
The elevator to the executive suite had been designed to only move one person at a time. Located toward the back of the lobby, you might walk right by it if you didn’t know where you wanted to go. Kimberly, however, knew where she wanted to be so she passed the banks that took people to other floors and pushed the “up” button.
A few seconds later the sound of the elevator signaled that it had reached the bottom floor and was ready for its next passenger. Before Kimberly could take a step forward, a man named Rex rushed by her and stepped into the car. “Sorry but I need to head up there first,” he said.
After Rex had left, Kimberly pushed the button again and while she waited, a familiar face approached. Michael said, “hello,” and the two engaged in chit chat until the familiar “ding” sounded again. Michael didn’t even say “excuse me” as he walked past Kimberly and onto the elevator. He turned and just before the doors closed, he said, “I didn’t realize you were waiting.”
Kimberly was frustrated. Both men had clearly seen her but they didn’t seem to realize it was her turn. Again, she pushed the button. But when the car returned to the lobby level, Kimberly experienced the same thing all over again. This time John got into the elevator.
Then it was Ryan. Kimberly waited and tried again.
Then Daniel. More waiting and trying.
Jeffey. Waiting, trying.
And after 24 men had pushed by her to take their rides to the c-suite, it was finally Kimberly’s turn.
Repetitive? Frustrating to read? I hope so because I want to give you a glimpse into the composition of our Fortune 500. For every 24 men that get the top spots at their companies, there is one woman. In 2012 there was “big” progress because of the 500 CEOs listed, 18 were women. And the reason this is called progress is because in 2011, the number of women in top spots had dropped from 15 to 12. I recently read an article celebrating the fact that we have so many women CEO’s this year and it struck a nerve with me. Yea, we’re almost 4 percent?!
I don’t want to scoff at positive change because at a minimum, a negative trend was reversed. Instead of declining further, the number of women CEO’s did increase. But when reviewed in context of the below, it just doesn’t seem like reason for celebration quite yet.
- Women are more than 50% of the workforce.
- Women are outpacing men in educational attainment.
- Credit Suisse, McKinsey, and Dow Jones have shown that women on boards or in top positions leads to greater financial performance.
- Intelligence of groups increases when there is a mix of women and men on a team.
I have been working to better understand the root causes of this inequality in order to work toward solutions and I would love to hear back from you. Why do you think the numbers of women in top jobs is so ridiculously low? And what do you think we need to do to change this?