United States: Gender Diversity Survey - 2016 Proxy Season Results

The Fenwick & West Gender Diversity Survey provides unique insight into women's participation at the most senior levels of public technology and life sciences companies in the Silicon Valley 150 Index (SV 150) and the large public companies in the Standard & Poor's 100 Index (S&P 100).

The report reviews public filings from 1996 through 2016 to analyze the gender makeup of boards, board leadership, board committees and executive management teams in the two groups, with special comparisons showing how the top 15 largest companies in the SV 150 fare, as they are the peers of the large public companies included in the S&P 100.

Companies, board members and C-level executives can use this survey as a statistical benchmark for Silicon Valley leaders, as well as for comparison to the landscape of the largest public companies across the United States.

Download the report that reviews twenty-one years of filings to analyze the gender makeup of boards and management teams.

Key observations from the survey include:

Growth rates remain low.

  • The representation of women on boards continued to increase between 2014—the last year Fenwick published the Gender Diversity Survey—and 2016 in the United States but at lower rates than in other countries. The average percentage of women directors increased 4.1 percentage points in the SV 150 to 14.1% in 2016 and in the S&P 100 rose 2.2 percentage points to 23.1% (with the top 15 companies in the SV 150 increasing 6.5 percentage points to 22.2%).
  • However, in both the S&P 100 and the top 15 of the SV 150, 100% of companies have had at least one woman director in the last few years. In the SV 150 overall, the percentage of companies with at least one woman director increased 12 percentage points to 74%.

Size continues to matter—the bigger the company, the more diverse its leadership.

  • Larger companies by revenue and market capitalization tend to have larger boards and executive management teams, which tend to be more diverse.
  • In recent years, the top 15 largest companies in the SV 150 have surpassed the S&P 100 in percentage of women in board leadership positions, including board chairs, lead directors, and committee chairs.
  • What's more, when measured in terms of likelihood of being in a board leadership position among women that serve as board members, the top 15 of the SV 150 and the SV 150 overall have been significantly more likely to include women in board leadership positions than the S&P 100.

Women CEOs are rare in the United States, but companies in the SV 150 and S&P 100 exceed the general corporate population.

  • Women Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) continue to be a rarity in the United States but companies in the SV 150, with 6% women CEOs, and the S&P 100, with 7% women CEOs, appear to slightly exceed the percentage of women CEOs in the general corporate population (approximately 4%).
  • The top 15 companies of the SV 150, though a small sample set, notched a notable increase in women CEOs, coming in at 13.3%.

Women NEOs are more likely in the SV 150 than the S&P 100.

  • The average percentage growth rate of women named executive officers (NEOs)—executives that are generally the most highly compensated and in some sense those that a company considers among the most important—has been faster in the SV 150 (approximately 705% growth) than in the S&P 100 (approximately 544% growth).
  • What's more, when measured in terms of likelihood of being an NEO among women that serve as executive officers, the SV 150 has been significantly more likely to include women as NEOs than the S&P 100, and in the most recent year the top 15 of the SV 150 were slightly more likely to include women than men as NEOs.

Full Coverage:

For each of the S&P 100, top 15 of the SV 150 and the full SV 150, the survey includes review of the gender diversity of:

  • overall gender diversity (Fenwick Gender Diversity ScoreTM)
  • board of directors
  • board committees
  • board and committee leadership
  • executive officers
  • NEOs
  • chief executive officer (CEO)
  • president/top operations executive
  • chief financial officer (CFO)
  • top legal officer/general counsel (GC)
  • top technology/engineering/r&d executive
  • top sales executive
  • top marketing executive
  • top corporate/business development executive

The survey also includes data broken down by the top 50, middle 50 and bottom 50 of the SV 150 in a variety of categories.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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