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Women in Leadership: Snapshot of Select Fortune 500 Companies
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Diversity and inclusivity are essential for business growth and performance. Having a diverse leadership is not just a checkbox for companies, but a necessary condition for promoting innovation and diverse perspectives. Moreover, a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) has become increasingly important to attract the next generation of talent.
We used Aura workforce data to analyze DE&I metrics for a group of 20 Top Fortune 500 companies, led by male and female CEOs. The companies were selected basis highest revenue, for geographies where Aura has coverage of publicly available data. We analyzed performance of the entire group, as well as added some color into companies led by female CEOs relative to their male counterparts. Gender and ethnic representation was inferred systematically for this directional analysis. Both groups of companies include industries such as Energy and Utility, Retail, Technology & Telecom, and Healthcare, helping balance the variance in industry selection.
Female representation & potential for improvement
The presence of gender imbalance in these companies is undeniable, with female representation accounting for about 42% of the workforce overall. However, this imbalance is less pronounced in companies led by female CEOs. In such companies, women make up approximately 45% of the total workforce, compared to around 41% in companies led by male CEOs. While representation of women in leadership positions, is just one factor contributing to building a diverse company, women leaders can serve both as a role model and an indication of broader company change.
Gender & seniority
Aura can help gain insights into the gender gap within the organizational hierarchy. While the equitable distribution of gender at the Junior level is commendable for this group of Fortune 500 companies, Aura data reveals a significant decrease in the representation of women as we move from the Entry level (50%) to Manager level positions (39%), and further to senior roles such as Director and above (37%).
Among selected female-led companies in the Fortune 500, women account for over half (53%) of entry-level roles. However, as women progress up the corporate ladder, their representation decreases. In managerial roles, women make up 42%, and among directors and above, the percentage further drops to 38%. This is only marginally better than the overall group.
The fact that men experience the opposite trajectory, with their representation increasing as they advance in seniority, emphasizes the pervasive presence of the glass ceiling. Despite the equitable gender representation at junior levels in women-led companies, it has not been sufficient to address the disparity in women's leadership representation. This indicates a need for broader systematic change from individual corporations, and policy interventions by the government.
Crucial to these systemic shifts is the need to provide substantial support for women during key life transition periods such as childbirth. These life events are typically accompanied by the steepest decreases in women's workplace representation, thus calling for innovative and effective support mechanisms. The interventions could include flexible working conditions, support for returning to work, strong parental leave policies, and access to affordable child care, among others.
Overlaying intersectionality: exploring ethnicity
Aura can help companies develop a view of intersectionality through an external lens. This view can deepen understanding of inclusivity within the company and guide solution design for specific groups that are least represented.
When examining ethnicity in the focus group of companies, Aura data found that White men have the highest representation, followed by Asian/Pacific Islander men. White women and Asian/Pacific Islander women have lower representation compared to their male counterparts. Both Black and Hispanic ethnicities have significantly lower representation for both genders.
Furthermore, we analyzed the representation of women at different seniority levels based on their ethnicities. Although there is a notable gender gap in leadership positions for all ethnicities, it is particularly larger for Black and Hispanic women. This gap is even more concerning considering the already low representation of Black and Hispanic women in junior roles.
There is room for improvement for these industry-leading companies based on Aura's diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) metrics. For investors and companies, it is crucial to regularly and rigorously analyze these DE&I metrics, in order to continue improving and gain a better understanding of target/ portfolio companies or peer sets. This analysis can also help identify gaps that can be targeted in future workforce design. At Aura, we facilitate this effort by providing easily accessible workforce data and analytics. This allows for comparisons of relevant metrics with industry peer benchmarks and exemplars, ultimately driving meaningful change.
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Ritu Sharma
Senior Manager, Aura

Note: All information mentioned in this report comes from publicly available data; if you believe the information on your company is incorrect, please reach out to us at:
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