I’ve been asked to define a super-star “Femme” on several occasions. These are women who’ve worked hard to positively impact the lives of dozens, hundreds or thousands of people across the world. They are strong, passionate and charismatic. Other words that are used often to describe them include: success, performance, elite, inspirational, dynamic, etc.
Over the last decade, the dynamics of women in business have changed. On April 23rd, 2001 – BusinessWeek released an article titled For Female CEOs, It’s Stingy at the Top. In this article we learn that female executives and CEOs are under-paid when compared to their male counterparts. “What gives?”, the article asks. ”Usually, rank goes hand in hand with rewards”. Not so in 2001: ”For the 20 highest-paid male executives, total compensation averaged $138.5 million, while the 20 best-paid females barely eked out $11.2 million apiece. With the best-paid women holding lower-level positions at smaller or stodgier companies, it’s no wonder that pay lags”.
Alright. So, how has that changed?…
Just 2 years later (2003) female execs were hailed as “better executives” by USA Today’s article 2003: Year of the woman among the ‘Fortune’ 500? - why? It seems that of the large companies examined for this article, female CEO’s drove 52% gains for their businesses on average, in 2003. While the average of all companies measured was only 27% for the same time period. “The glass ceiling has been so difficult to crack that women who reach the top are, on average, better executives than their male counterparts”. Could it be true? ”Not to diminish males, but there may be something to that,” says Eileen Scott, CEO of Pathmark Stores (PTMK), a Fortune 500 chain of 143 supermarkets in the Northeast.
Women continue to make strides, although they remain behind. The number earning more than $80,000 a year, adjusted for inflation, increased 166% to 1.7 million from 1991 to 2001, a rate of growth nearly three times that of men, according to the Employment Policy Foundation. And, among the five highest-paid corporate officers at each Fortune 500 company, 5.2% were women in 2002, up from 1.2% in 1995, according to Catalyst, an organization that attempts to advance women in business.
Good. So we are on our way. Well, what about more recent years?
Fast forward through an economic bubble, and massive decline (in 2007 & 2008) – to January 2, 2008 – just 2 years ago. ABC News/Money released a story: Female CEOs make more gains in 2007 – a study that proved that “for the second year in a row, the stock performance of women-led companies mirrored that of companies run by men. Some advocates of women in leadership such as Judy Rosener of the University of California-Irvine Graduate School of Management predict women will eventually outperform men”. Really? Yes. But when?
Also, in 2007, your very own Femme was featured on CBS’ Nightly News, Young Women As Breadwinners - an interesting piece on how young women (in their 20’s) earn more than their male contemporaries because they are putting off marriage and having children, to focus on their careers.
Over the last decade, women like you, have made tremendous strides in Corporate America. But we still have a long way to go. In January 2009, MSNBC made public an article written by Forbes.com: America’s Highest-paid Female CEO’s, These women rake in the dough, but still make less than male counterpart. “In January, President Obama signed the historic Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which aims to guarantee equal compensation for men and women. Yet even in the corner office, it seems, women still don’t enjoy the same rewards for their managerial performance as men. This year, America’s top-paid female CEOs earned, on average, $3.9 million. Compare this to the men, who raked in an average of $11.9 million”.
I agree that compensation will continue to even-out as more women move up into executive positions. How long it will take, is yet unknown. Let’s not get impatient! Let’s celebrate new opportunities and encourage the Femmes in our lives to be all they can be… whatever that means for them.
Here are some Femmes to watch in 2010 (courtesy of executivebiz.com):
Teresa Carlson, vice president of Microsoft’s US federal government business: “I think women were always here. We didn’t have to arrive. The reality now is we’re taking the driver’s seat much more and taking on bigger and bigger challenges.”
Cheryl Janey, vice president of operations, Northrop Grumman’s information systems sector’s civil systems division: “Being a female leader in government contracting is exciting. We’ve seen more and more females coming in on both the contractor’s and government’s side who have so much to contribute.”
Judy Marks, vice president of strategy and business development for Lockheed Martin’s Electronic Systems business: “The whole federal contracting world offers everyone opportunities for leadership and contributions. There are so many talented people coming off today’s campuses. I’m encouraged and I’m excited.”
Stacy Mendler, COO, Alion: “I really think the industry has changed and companies want women to perform and take on higher level positions. Companies want women to succeed and help drive growth.”
Suzan Zimmerman, senior vice president of corporate development, QinetiQ North America: “The only glass ceiling is the one you put over your head. If you work hard, and people know you’re interested in what you’re doing, there is no glass ceiling.”
And finally, here are some inspirational quotes from Super-star Femmes over the last decade:
Without an open-minded mind, you can never be a great success.
~ Martha Stewart
Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.
~ J. K. Rowling
God didn’t have time to make a nobody, only a somebody.I believe that each of us has God-given talents within us waiting to be brought to fruition.
~ Mary Kay Ash
Whatever you fear most has no power… it is your fear that has the power.
~ Oprah Winfrey
Happy New Year Femmes!