News | August 26, 1998

Where Women Should Be Boss

The September issue of Working Woman magazine includes what the magazine calls its first-annual ranking of the Top 25 Public Companies for Executive Women. "Until now, no other organization or magazine has ever attempted to rank the best companies for women executives," says Bernadette Grey, the magazine's editor-in-chief. Grey says the list reflects companies that have "qualitative, accountable, and measurable results of promoting women into the highest levels."

Insurance-related companies that made the grade include Aetna, American Express, CIGNA and Lincoln National.

Select survey findings include:

Women Rise to the Top
An increasing number of companies, such as Fannie Mae Corp. (No. 2), IBM (No. 12), Sara Lee (No. 18) and CIGNA (No. 22), have promoted more women into management positions. As a matter of fact, IBM nearly doubled their number of women executives within the past three years—from 185 to 336. Eighty percent of the management team at Gap (No. 7) is female—the highest of any company on the list—while more than half the women at Scholastic (No. 61) are in management positions and 29 percent of Amex's executive and senior vice presidents are women. In addition, companies such as first-placed Avon and Aetna, ranked 13th, are proving their commitment to advancing females by adding more women to their board.

Companies Making Good on their Promises
The percentage of women in management is beginning to reach parity with the percentage of female employees at most major corporations nationwide. A handful of companies, such as first-placed Avon, Scholastic (No. 6), and Gap (No. 7), have created a corporate culture in which women thrive without the need for official programs.

Increased Work-Family Programs
Aetna (No. 13), American Express Company (No. 15), Sallie Mae (No. 10), and CIGNA (No. 22) have created generous work-family programs. Eighteen percent of Aetna's workforce has custom-fit arrangements, including part-time schedules, job sharing, and telecommuting.

Increased Programs to Advance Women
Many companies have diagnosed their need to develop female managerial talent and have launched initiatives to make that happen. Proctor & Gamble (No. 4), IBM Corp. (No. 12), Xerox (No. 19), and Bristol-Myers Squibb (No. 25) all came face-to-face with the fact that women weren't advancing as consistently as they might and have tackled that problem head-on. Xerox opened a Women in Technology Center in its Palo Alto facility to encourage women to pursue careers in technology. Merck & Co. (No. 17) Colgate-Palmolive Co. (No. 20), and Johnson & Johnson (No. 21), have developed mentoring programs that establish networking relationships throughout the company, while Pitney Bowes (No. 3), Gannett (No. 5), Knight Ridder (No. 8), and Hannaford Bros. Co. (No. 24) have developed leadership programs that expand women's knowledge by circulating females through all areas of the business.

Assisting Other Women-Owned Businesses
Companies such as Nordstrom (No. 9) and Lincoln National Corp. (No. 23) not only advance women within their own companies, but also provide support to other women-owned businesses. Nordstrom's Supplier Diversity Program, established in 1989, has purchased more than $1.9 billion worth of goods and services from women- and minority-owned businesses.

The list ranked publicly held companies with more than 3,000 employees and at least two women on the board of directors, or one woman if she represented more than 20 percent–twice the national average of the board. Criteria for qualifying companies focused on the percentage of female directors; women in senior management positions; women at the level of corporate vice president; and ratio of female managers to female employees. Working Woman also looked at the success of the company's formal and informal initiatives to enhance gender diversity at executive levels, the scope of the company's efforts to promote women through a variety of managerial positions, and the quality of its work-life programs. Finally, the magazine conducted more than 100 interviews with women at the final 50 contending companies to find out first-hand their experiences en route to the executive suite.

Working Woman magazine's Top 25 List includes, in order:

    Avon Products, New York City
    Fannie Mae Corp., Washington, DC
    Pitney Bowes, Stamford, CT
    Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati
    Gannett Co., Arlington, VA
    Scholastic, New York City
    Gap, San Francisco
    Knight Ridder, Miami
    Nordstrom, Seattle
    Sallie Mae, Reston, VA
    Home Savings of America, Irwindale, CA
    IBM Corp., Armonk, NY
    Aetna, Hartford
    Kelly Services, Troy, MI
    American Express Co., New York City
    Dayton Hudson, Minneapolis
    Merck & Co., Whitehouse Station, NJ
    Sara Lee Corp., Chicago
    Xerox Corp., Stamford, CT
    Colgate-Palmolive Co., New York City
    Johnson & Johnson, New Brunswick, NJ
    CIGNA, Philadelphia
    Lincoln National Corp., Fort Wayne, IN
    Hannaford Bros., Scarborough, ME
    Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., New York City