3 Ways Companies Create Gender Equality

Women occupy 16.9 percent of Fortune 500 corporate board seats

AOL OnThe new CEO of GM Mary Barra
The glass ceiling remains hard to shatter. That's the main takeaway from the annual census report on women in the workplace just released by the New York-based non-profit women's research group, Catalyst. The results of the census found that women only hold 16.9 percent of corporate board seats among the Fortune 500. And that figure has essentially been flat for the past eight years.

The executive suite remains similarly stagnant, with women occupying 14.6 percent of all c-suite positions. That number, for its part, hasn't seen major movement in the past four years. And so the tapping of a woman, Mary Barra, to be the next CEO of GM remains the exception and not the rule.

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"It's hard to believe that at the end of 2013 we still see more than a few all-male corporate boards and leadership teams." said Ilene H. Lang, the president & CEO of Catalyst, in a press release. (Catalyst only conducts research at the managerial level.) Post-IPO Twitter, most notably, just added a woman to its board.

And then the exceptions
Amid such stagnancy, however, there are companies that stand out for greater gender parity in their upper ranks. A handful even see women occupying as much as 45 percent of director positions. Several of these companies specialize in lifestyle products popular among women, but several do not.

But as Deborah Gillis, Catalyst's chief operating officer, told AOL Jobs in an interview, boosting the number of women in a company's workforce is not simply a humanitarian gesture. "If you want to have as successful a business as possible, you can't possibly do so by shutting out half your talent," she said.

Old habit dies hard. See below for three practices companies are embracing to boost gender parity as well as the ten companies with the highest representation of women at the director level.

1. Intentionally promote women. Any concern over political correctness in actively seeking out women for open positions is foolish, according to Gillis. "Leaders send a message that it isn't hard to find qualified female applicants if you focus and make advancement of all talent a priority," she said. "It's the only way to make your company look like the market it serves."

2. Assign women to 'hot' projects. It's not just simply a matter of making sure women have a seat at the table, according to Gillis. As she put it, companies have a tendency to place men on the "hot" assignments, which puts them on the path for leadership positions. "Visibility to senior leaders is vital for advancement," she said. And Catalyst has recognized Alcoa Inc. for pursuing such a policy with its "Hard Hat" initiative it launched in 2008 to increase the number of women supervisors and leaders at the company's refineries, smelters, and factories worldwide. And between 2008 and 2012, women's representation for executive roles grew companywide from 15.8 percent to 19 percent.

3. Impose accountability for hiring of women. "Companies that have been successful in hiring women have held their executives accountable with expectations," Gillis said. In order to do so, leaders are setting quantifiable goals. Coca-Cola, also recognized by Catalyst, has for instance told its managers it expects all divisions to be gender-equal by 2020. And at Toronto-based Scotiabank, advancement of women is included as an annual performance goal for c-suite executives and other senior leaders as part of their annual scorecard, which is tied to compensation.

See below for the Fortune 500 companies that have the highest percentage of women directors.

10. Frontier Communications

Industry: Information
Percentage of women directors: 36.4 percent

Find a job now with Frontier Communications here.

9. Abbott Laboratories

Industry: Manufacturing
Percentage of women directors: 36.4 percent

Find out more about Abbott Laboratories here.

8. Xerox

Industry: Administration Management
Percentage of women directors: 40 percent

Find a job now with Xerox here.

7. Walt Disney

Industry: Information/Entertainment
Percentage of women directors: 40 percent

Find out more about Walt Disney here.

6. Texas Instruments

Industry: Manufacturing/Equipment
Percentage of women directors: 40 percent

Find out more about Texas Instruments here.

5. Macy's

Industry: Retail
Percentage of women directors: 40 percent

Find a job now with Macy's here.

4. Interpublic Group

Industry: Technical Services
Percentage of women directors: 44.4 percent

Find out more about the Interpublic Group here.

3. Procter & Gamble

Industry: Retail/Manufacturing
Percentage of women directors: 45.5 percent

Find our more about Procter & Gamble here.

2. Avon Products

Industry: Retail/Manufacturing
Percentage of women directors: 45.5 percent

Find a job with Avon Products now.

1. Estée Lauder

Industry: Retail
Percentage of women directors: 46.7 percent

Find a job with Estée Lauder here.


Filed under: Lists, Employment Trends
Dan Fastenberg

Dan Fastenberg

Associate Editor

Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.

Follow Dan on Twitter. Email Dan at daniel.fastenberg@teamaol.com. Add Dan to your Google+ circles.

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