There are more S&P 500 CEOs named Michael or James than women chief executives


Just 6% of S&P 500 companies have a woman CEO, according to a new report assessing the country’s top public companies on measures of workplace equality as of this past March.

That makes the 40 chief executives named Michael or James more common than the 31 women CEOs, found the analysis by Equileap, an independent data provider that publishes insights on corporate gender equality.

Chairs of the board named John, meanwhile, outnumbered women chairs 23 to 21; only 4% of companies had a woman chair leading their board of directors. Thirteen percent of companies have a woman CFO, the report said, while nearly eight in 10 companies have no women at the board chair, CEO or CFO level.

“Overall, U.S. companies do well on gender balance with an average of 40% female employees and 60% male employees,” the authors wrote. “However, this balance does not make its way to company leadership, with the board, executive and management all averaging less than 30% female representation.”

The top scorer on Equileap’s gender-equality rankings was General Motors
followed by Nielsen Holdings

and Verizon

Telva McGruder, GM’s chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, said that the automaker in June had “publicly declared our aspiration to become the world’s most inclusive company.” “Pay equity is a key pillar on this journey, and while we know there is a lot of work ahead to achieve true inclusion, we are proud of our progress and leadership on issues such as equal pay,” she told MarketWatch in a statement.

Also read: Women have made gains in the C-suite, but they still face one critical ‘broken rung’ on the corporate ladder

“We’ve focused on driving gender diversity at all levels and being an employer of choice for women,” added Sandra Sims-Williams, Nielsen’s SVP of diversity, equity and inclusion, in an emailed statement. “When we support women, we are supporting not just our associates, but also the wellbeing of families and the communities where we live and work. And that is the foundation of a healthy, inclusive environment.”

Using both publicly available information and data solicited from the companies, Equileap ranked companies based on the criteria of leadership and workforce gender balance; equal compensation and work-life balance; gender equality-promoting policies; transparency, accountability and commitment to women’s empowerment; and “gender controversies” such as sexual-harassment or gender-discrimination incidents.

Three years after the revival of the #MeToo movement, 69% of S&P 500 companies now have an anti-sexual harassment policy that explicitly condemns workplace sexual harassment and gender-based violence, according to the report — meaning 31% of companies do not have such a policy in place. 

Despite “room for improvement,” the report notes, that share is substantially higher than the average of 255 European companies (48%) and of 208 U.K. companies (30%). The 2019 global average was 42%.

‘Data on gender equality in the workplace matters because employees are often beholden to their benefits package at work, in particular in the absence of national legislation.’

— Equileap report

And with many women leaving the workforce or paring back hours as the pandemic burdens them with additional caregiving duties, only 18% of companies provide both flexible working hours and locations, according to the analysis, which only took into account “entrenched company policy” rather than emergency COVID-19 work-from-home policies. Forty-one percent offer flexible hours, while 20% offer flexible locations.

Moreover, under half of the companies provide two or more weeks of paid primary caregiver leave, with a majority either providing less than two weeks or declining to publish the number. About 14% of companies offer 14 weeks or up, as recommended by the International Labor Organization.

“Data on gender equality in the workplace matters because employees are often beholden to their benefits package at work, in particular in the absence of national legislation,” Equileap CEO Diana van Maasdijk said in the report. “For example, the U.S. is the only developed country to not offer statutory, paid maternity leave.”

Health-care access is “another example of corporations stepping in to fill the gap is access to healthcare,” she added, as the U.S. lacks the universal health coverage that many other developed nations have. 

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Four in 10 companies offer insurance-plan options with coverage for immediate family members. While all health plans cover contraception for women in accordance with the Affordable Care Act mandate, just 34 of the companies extend that coverage to men. Meanwhile, 9% of S&P 500 companies offer plans that provide either elective or non-elective abortion coverage.

“Recent legal challenges are chipping away at the health and reproductive care women can obtain, particularly the right to safe abortion,” the report authors wrote. “There is now a patchwork of availability, leaving many women in the U.S. unable to access health care without extra costs and delay.”

The Equileap report was commissioned by the Tara Health Foundation, which also supports abortion-rights organizations.

“This means that the type and quality of health plans employers choose is an important part of evaluating U.S. companies on gender equality in the workplace,” the authors added.


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