Breaking The Glass Ceiling in Florida

iStock_000006589526XSmall_1_.jpgby Liz O’Donnell (Boston)

New data from Florida supports a disturbing trend. The number of women in top corporate jobs and on boards of directors in Florida’s top public companies has dwindled over the past few years according to the 2008 Census by Women Executive Leadership. The census studies gender diversity in the executive suite and boardroom. It was conducted by WEL (Women Executive Leadership), a Florida-based organization that advocates, educates, and connects women, in conjunction with The University of Miami School of Business Administration. WEL last conducted the survey in 2006.

According to the report, the number of board seats held by women in the top 150 Florida companies was flat compared to 2007 but slightly down compared to 2006. Last year and in 2007, women held 7.4 percent of board positions compared to 8.7 percent in 2006. That means men hold more than 92 percent of the board seats in the top 150 Florida public companies. The number of female executives rose slightly from 5.4 percent in 2006 to 7.0 percent in 2008. When comparing census data from 2004, the changes are even more dramatic. In 2004 women held 67 executive positions at Florida top public companies but in 2008 they only held 49.

The news from Florida is consistent with recent data from other parts of the country. For example, in Massachusetts, among the state’s 100 largest public companies, the number and percentage of women executive officers and the percentage of companies with a woman among their most highly compensated officers, fell to the lowest point since 2003. In California, women hold only 10.9 percent of board seats and executive positions in the 400 largest publicly held companies. This number is up just barely from 10.4 the previous year.

While there has been some progress in the struggle for gender equality in the workplace — President Obama’s signing of the Lilly Ledbetter act, new global inclusion programs and increased work/life balance programs at many of the Fortune 1000 for example — the data doesn’t lie. There is still much work to be done in order to bring corporate America into balance. In addition to the percentage of women vs. men at the top, there is the wage gap statistic. Women still earn, on average, only .77 cents for every dollar a man earns.

This data becomes even more disturbing when looked at in relation to another national trend. As the economy continues to struggle, the number of working women is expected to surpass the number of working men. This is because most layoffs are happening in male-dominated industries. At the end of 2008, women already held 49.1 percent of U.S. jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means more women are supporting families with lower paying jobs.

Among the top 10 Florida companies on the Fortune 500, three have several women executives.

Office Depot has three women on its executive team:

Elisa D. Garcia C., Executive Vice President, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary
Monica Luechtefeld, Executive Vice President, Information Technology
Daisy Vanderlinde, Executive Vice President, Human Resources

Lennar also has three women on its leadership team:

Diane J. Bessette, Vice President and Treasurer
Kay L. Howard, Director – Communications
Linda Reed, Executive Vice President, Lennar Financial Services, LLC;
President, North American Title Group, Inc.

Two women are executive officers at CSX:

Ellen M. Fitzsimmons, Senior Vice President-Law and Public Affairs, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary
Lisa A. Mancini, Senior Vice President-Human Resources

The following Florida companies have two or more female board members:
Office Depot, Inc. (4 female Board members)
Ryder Systems, Inc. (4 female Board members)
Tupperware Brands Corporation (4 female Board members)
Raymond James Financial, Inc. (2 female Board members)
Chico’s FAS, Inc. (2 female Board members)
FPL Group, Inc. (2 female Board members)
CSX Corporation (2 female Board members)
Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. (2 female Board members)
Darden Restaurants, Inc. (2 female Board members)
Harris Corp. (2 female Board members)
Spherion Corporation (2 female Board members)
Stein Mart, Inc. (2 female Board members)
Brown & Brown, Inc. (2 female Board members)
Hollywood Media Corp. (2 female Board members)
Flanigan’s Enterprises, Inc. (2 female Board members)
Imperial Industries, Inc. (2 female Board members)