Post by Jane K. Stimmler, contributing Women On Business writer
Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination and subsequent confirmation to the Supreme Court was indeed cause for celebration. She appears to be well qualified and highly capable. In addition, she is a woman. To be specific, she’s the third woman in the Court’s 220 year history. And, she brings the composition of the Court back to two women and seven men. This was the same gender balance as before the 2006 retirement of Sandra Day O’Connor who had served as the first woman on the Supreme Court since 1981. And, she was the only women until 1993, when current Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was appointed to the Court.
Hmmm – let’s review…
Though women are about half the population, and now comprise about half of law school graduates, we are represented by just two females of the nine Justices on the nation’s highest court – with all of the power and impact it commands. Neither the Supreme Court, nor most of the world’s most powerful bodies, appear to be embracing women as quickly as I, for one, would have hoped. When you stop to think about how far women have come, and our sheer numbers, it is hard to believe that we have made so little progress participating in decision-making which directly affects us! Here are some examples:
Women dominate consumer markets.
Women purchase, or influence the purchase of over 85% of all consumer goods, such as home furnishings, cars, and electronics. They make over 80% of all health care decisions, and purchase 93% of all food and over-the-counter pharmaceutical products. Yet only twelve – or 2.4%, of Fortune 500 companies, the companies which produce and manufacture many of these products, have female CEOs, and only 14.8% of the Board seats are held by women.
Women comprise 46% of the labor force.
Women’s representation in the U.S. labor force hasn’t changed dramatically over the past 20 years. However, they have jumped from holding about a third of the managerial positions to about 50%. But women comprise only 15% of the officer level positions in Fortune 500 companies, up from 9% a decade ago. They are a mere 6.7% of the top earners, and on average make only 77% of what men earn.
There are estimated to be 10.6 million women-owned businesses.
That’s up from 6.4 million almost twenty years ago. And, the number of women-owned companies with one hundred or more employees has increased at nearly twice the growth rate of all other companies. Yet, women get less than roughly 5% of the $30 billion venture capital pie.
— From Breaking Into the Boys’ Club 2009.
It seems a shame that while women are clearly present in numbers and our achievements are extensive, we remain a minority in the highest places – those where the real decisions are made. What do you think about women’s progress in America? Have we come far enough fast enough?
Please join the conversation!