Pandora: Did we demolish the ceiling? Not just yet

I read with relief yesterday that the glass ceiling is a thing of the past! The evidence? That 21 of the Fortune 500 companies have women CEOs. It appears that the appointment of Marillyn Hewson as chief executive of the maker for warplanes and ships, Lockheed Martin, was the straw that cracked the ceiling’s glass.

Call me a cynic, call me a diehard feminist – call me anything you like – but 21 out of 500 is 4.2%. Last time I looked, women made up 51% of the world’s population.

I am not getting this. Are you?

I will believe that we have the end of the glass ceiling when 50% of the CEOs on the Fortune 500 are women – or perhaps 96% if we are really promoting on merit alone.

The quote was from a professor at Harvard Business School, Regina E Herzlinger. She was the first woman to be tenured and chaired at Harvard Business School and the first to serve on a number of corporate boards, Herzlinger’s HBR profile explains. She has been through times that were more difficult for women to achieve in, no doubt.

Back Down Under, there are two companies in the S&P/ASX 100 with women in the CEO role – that’s 2% of the total.

After a big media campaign and lobbying effort from corporate women and peak bodies such as Women on Boards, the number of women on the boards of ASX200 companies rose (or should I say inched) to 13.9%, up from 8.7% two years prior (these numbers will be updated on March 8, International Women’s Day).

This incremental increase in board participation has been greeted with the same rampant and misplaced enthusiasm. Yes, it is an achievement, of course … just like crawling. But walking and standing tall are so much more impressive for both a growing baby and a maturing society.

However, many medium-sized companies are unmoved by the bountiful arguments regarding the economic benefit of diversity – of all sorts – that have been revealed in recent years.

Meanwhile, the appalling lack of women CEOs in the ASX100 and ASX200 is not very much mentioned.

I dropped a line to Herzlinger to see if she had been misquoted or misrepresented, but I did not hear back in time for this story.

The glass ceiling remains, I am sorry to report.

Let me assure you that as soon as it is gone, I’ll be in touch.

Until then, for all those who truly believe that women have as much to offer as men in leadership roles, it is onward, ever onward.

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