Gender gap persists in New York's boardrooms and executive suites, CU study finds

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Nicola Pytell

The glass ceiling still looms over women executives across New York, a new Cornell study shows. Women may represent nearly half of New York's workers but they constitute less than 15 percent of the total board director and executive officer positions in the 100 largest public companies headquartered in the state.

That's according to the first annual report on women leaders in New York published by the Women's Executive Circle of New York (WECNY) in partnership with the Institute for Women and Work in Cornell's ILR School.

"In the business world, women have made undeniable progress over the past 15 years in moving up the corporate ladder," said Francine Moccio, director of the Institute for Women and Work at Cornell. "However, our findings reveal that gender segregation at the top decision-making levels of New York companies continues to exist."

For example, the study found that for fiscal year 2006:

On boards of directors, women represent less than 16 percent of the 1,129 board seats in the 100 largest public companies in New York; 14 percent have no women; 24 percent have one woman; and 21 percent have three or more women.

Women represent less than 12 percent of the 354 executive officers in the 100 top public companies in New York; 67 companies have no women executive officers; eight companies have two or more women executive officers; and four companies have a woman serving as CEO.

"Diversity is not only good for business in today's global environment, but essential for companies to maintain their profitability," said Moccio. "Gender diversification at the upper echelons of business management and corporate governance is vital for New York state companies to widen their pool of diverse skills, talent and experience by having more women in leadership positions."

The companies given top marks for women leadership are Avon (47 percent of board directors and executive officers are women ), The New York Times (38 percent), Estée Lauder (35 percent), Merrill Lynch (33 percent), Ann Taylor Stores (33 percent) and NYSE Group (31 percent).

The report drew from Crain's New York Business list of the top 100 revenue-producing public companies in New York state ranked by percentage of women directors and executive officers.

The partnership between the Institute for Women and Work and the WECNY, which is the brainchild of Michele Williams, assistant professor in organizational behavior in Cornell's ILR School, seeks to advance women in business in New York state.

This study is part of a series of research reports released by the Institute for Women and Work to track the progress and prospects of women's leadership in labor, business and public policy in New York state. The report was also sponsored by the New York State Department of Labor, Citi Smith Barney, KPMG LLP, RR Donnelley and Seyfarth Shaw LLP. For the complete report, see or

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