NEW YORK – According to the results of the Gender Forward Pioneer (GFP) Index released today by leading global communications and engagement firm Weber Shandwick, companies that are recognised with “most admired” reputation status by their industry peers have a higher proportion of female leaders, albeit well below gender parity. Yet the index also shows that only 10.9 per cent of the senior executives of the world’s 500 largest companies, by revenue, are women. Of those companies, not one has an equal representation of men and women on their senior management teams, and nearly four in 10 companies (37.6 per cent) have an all-male senior leadership team.
“Reputational advantage accrues to companies with more women in senior executive positions. This is great news for companies and great news for women. But despite a strong business case for improving women’s access to C-level positions, as confirmed by countless research studies, our GFP Index magnifies a harsh reality where few women are represented in the highest corporate ranks,” said Gail Heimann, president of Weber Shandwick. “It is high time that companies acknowledge the intangible benefits as well as the tangible returns that more gender balanced senior teams bring to company success, as well as the value of proactively encouraging female leaders to be heard.”
The GFP Index measures the percentage of women in senior management positions at Fortune Global 500 companies. Weber Shandwick audited these companies, identifying their top executives and their genders. In total, this amounted to an evaluation of more than 8,600 executives representing 36 countries. The Index is a supplement to Gender Equality in the Executive Ranks: A Paradox — The Journey to 2030, a global study sponsored by Weber Shandwick and KRC Research and conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in 2015. That survey of senior executives across 55 countries in North America, EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, Africa), APAC (Asia Pacific) and Latin America identified weak corporate commitment to achieving gender equality at the top while senior women are simultaneously experiencing “gender pipeline fatigue.”
The World’s Most Gender Forward Companies
Although no companies worldwide are at gender parity in their leadership ranks, some industries perform better than others, as do companies in particular markets.
- The top industry for women in senior management is General Merchandisers, with an index of 33 per cent (vs. the cross-industry average of 10.9 per cent).
- Five industries have no women on their senior management teams: Diversified Wholesalers, Food and Grocery Wholesalers, Shipping, Temporary Help and Textiles.
- North America has the highest proportion of women in senior management. Nearly two in 10 (19 per cent) of senior executives in North America are women.
- Sweden is the individual market with the highest proportion of women in senior management, followed closely by Turkey (27 per cent and 26 per cent, respectively).
- In total, only 13 of the Global Fortune 500 companies have a female CEO.
Gender Inclusion Drives Company Reputation and the Bottom Line
Analysis of the reputational standing among the world’s leading revenue-producing companies worldwide shows a correlation between reputation and the proportion of women in senior level positions. Using the Fortune World’s Most Admired rankings as a guide, Weber Shandwick determined that Most Admired Companies (those with the best reputations in their respective industries) have twice the percentage of women in senior management as Contender Companies, or those with weaker reputations in their industries (17 per cent vs. 8 per cent, respectively).
Additionally, according to executives in Gender Equality in the Executive Ranks: A Paradox — The Journey to 2030 who actively support gender parity initiatives at their companies, there are two factors that directly point to women’s contributions to the bottom-line success of organisations: “Diverse perspectives lead to better financial performance,” cited by 38 per cent, and “women make good leaders,” identified by 35 per cent.
“Weber Shandwick strongly believes that gender equality is rapidly becoming a new driver of company reputation,” said Leslie Gaines-Ross, Chief Reputation Strategist at Weber Shandwick. “Let’s get real. The media continues to be highly influential and journalists pay rapt attention to this hot-button gender topic, so corporate leaders are well advised to respect the reputational return on investment and competitive advantage that comes with gender balance at the top.”
In fact, four in 10 C-Level executives (39 per cent) report that their companies actively share such information to enhance their internal culture and public perception.
Firm Formalises Women Leaders Engagement Offering
After nearly a decade of research on the gender implications of leadership and client assignments with female leaders of global companies, Weber Shandwick has amassed unique insights and expertise in helping companies raise visibility for their top female executives.
“Today, as part of our growing Global Corporate practice offering, Weber Shandwick formalised its Women Leaders Engagement offering to focus specifically on advising accomplished C-suite executives and aspiring female leaders on enhancing their profiles – both externally and internally – in order to bolster company reputation and advance the pipeline of top female talent within their organisations,” said Micho Spring, Chair, Global Corporate Practice.
“Gender parity is now a pillar of our global dialogue – there’s not a major business conference or C-level agenda that doesn’t touch on the issue in some way. Women leaders have never had more opportunities for their ideas to be heard on the issues important to their industries, companies and brands,” said Carol Ballock, executive vice president and head of Weber Shandwick’s Executive Equity & Engagement specialty practice. “By building their public profiles, women leaders help build their company reputations and inspire the next generation of young women to want to lead and rise to the top. Our Corporate practice’s commitment to helping women leaders have greater parity and influence on the global dialogue in a visible way has been ongoing. We’re committed to getting more women on these top agendas and out in the world with their points of view.”
The Women Leaders Engagement offering will be led by Spring and Ballock and will draw from experts across the Weber network, incorporating elements of Weber Shandwick’s Executive Equity & Engagement, Employee Engagement & Change Management and Reputation Management specialty capabilities.
About the Weber Shandwick GFP Index
To determine how many senior executives are women in the Fortune Global 500, Weber Shandwick used two sources of information: 1) The company leadership page of the corporate website, and 2) Senior executive management listed in the company’s latest annual report. If an executive was listed in one or both of these sources, they were included in the list. Weber Shandwick then identified the gender of the executive. To the best of our ability, we listed only current senior management. Our research was conducted November – December 2015.
About the Fortune Global 500
The Fortune Global 500, also known as Global 500, is an annual ranking of the top 500 corporations worldwide as measured by revenue. The list is compiled and published annually by Fortune magazine. The list includes both publicly and privately-held companies.