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EDITORIAL: The glass ceiling holds for women in corporate America

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi is stepping down and she’ll be succeeded by PepsiCo executive Ramon Laguarta. | Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP file photo

The corporate glass ceiling is looking pretty shatterproof right about now.

It’s hard to envision a day when there will be gender equality at every level of the workplace when three Fortune 500 CEOs resign this year, only to be replaced by three men. 

So it goes, the thinning out of America’s already-meager ranks of female chief executives.


Sadly, the male successors to PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi, Campbell Soup Co.’s Denise M. Morrison and Mondelez International’s Irene Rosenfeld represent the norm. 

Only three times has a major publicly traded corporation chosen a woman to succeed another woman as CEO, according to the research and consulting firm Catalyst Inc. Kudos to Xerox, Avon and Reynolds American for being those exceptions.

So much for that old Virginia Slims cigarette jingle “You’ve come a long way, baby.” While the business world isn’t “Mad Men” anymore, the glass ceiling is cracked but still there.

Last year, the number of women leading Fortune 500 companies peaked at an all-time high of … 32. That’s just 6 percent of the total. And this year that number has dropped to 24, a minisculle 4.8 percent.

Don’t expect to see better numbers anytime soon, either: Women make up only 21 to 22 percent of top-level executives who might ascend to become a CEO, according to the 2017 Women in the Workplace study.

Whatever other factors drive the disparity, gender bias undoubtedly plays a role. 

“For years I thought it was a pipeline question,” corporate board recruiter Julie Daum told the New York Times. “But it’s not — I’ve been watching the pipeline for 25 years. There is real bias, and without the ability to shine a light on it and really measure it, I don’t think anything’s going to change.”

Meanwhile, there’s the world of politics. As of the Aug. 7 primaries, a record 185 women have been nominated by both parties to run for House seats in November. And expect even more women candidates, since 14 states have not held primaries yet.

We hear a lot of talk about running government more like a business. In this case, maybe business should run more like government.

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