An annual study from UC Davis finds women hold less than 12 percent of the highest-paid executive positions and board seats in California’s 400 largest public companies. Only 14 of those companies have female CEO’s and the median salary for top male executives is about $500,000 higher than the median for top female executives.
Marilyn Nagel is CEO of Watermark, a nonprofit that trains executive women. She also had a corporate career that culminated in a high level executive position. She says she had to work harder than her male counterparts to move ahead.
"I had to prove myself over and over again," she says. "I took on more challenging tasks. I delivered exceptional results. And yet the promotions were not as forthcoming. I was told, and now you need to do this."
Nagel says sexism is involved but that it’s not the only dynamic at play. She says a number of factors must change if the situation is to improve.
"I think legislation is helpful, management of corporations need to wake-up and recognize it’s good for business and it’s the right thing to do," she says. "And women need to assert themselves."
Democratic State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson authored a resolution last year urging California-based corporations to include more women on their boards. She says legislation mandating that would face strong opposition, but says there are other options.
"I think we can encourage it here in California," she says. "There are things we can do to put public pressure on, whether it’s with our dollars and our feet, if you will, as to the companies we do business with."
The study found the companies with more gender diversity had higher annual revenues and net income than the average companies in the study.