New Study Highlights Gender Gaps in Corporate Leadership

International Women’s Day Sharpens Focus on Gender Inequality at Work


La Grange:  Despite evidence of relative gender equality in educational attainment, a new Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) analysis of national and Midwest regional CEO data reveals persistent gender gaps in wages, employment in higher-paying jobs, and corporate leadership roles.

Read the Analysis: Women in High-Ranking Positions: The Few, The Need, the Benefits

“Businesses with more balanced gender representation tend to perform better, produce more innovation, and creatively solve problems while delivering higher returns for investors,” said study author Jill Manzo. “The persistent gender disparities in business leadership are not only perpetuating social inequality—they are shortchanging our economy.”

Overall, Manzo notes that while women currently comprise 43% of the nation’s workforce, they represent just 23% of CEOs, and just 6% of the leadership of the Fortune 1000. In Illinois, women are slightly better represented, comprising 26% of private CEOs and 7.5% of the leadership of Fortune 1000 companies based in the state. Women are under-represented in the leadership ranks of every private industry sector except one—the traditionally male-dominated construction sector.

Prior research has shown women earn just $0.79 on the dollar compared to men who perform the same jobs. While 40% of women are the primary income earners in their households, they are disproportionately represented in lower-paying occupations such as retail and education, more likely to work part-time jobs, and provide 75% of the world’s unpaid domestic care. The McKinsey Global Institute notes that if women were to participate in the economy at identical rates to men, it would produce $12-28 trillion in global economic growth by 2025, and $60 billion in Illinois alone.

To close these gender gaps, Manzo offers a range of recommendations. These include reforming the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to ensure equal treatment for mothers and fathers in the workforce, subsidized childcare programs for low- and middle-income workers, and the promotion of unionization and collective bargaining, which can close the gender wage gap by 73%. To promote more women in leadership roles, Manzo suggests requirements for more balanced gender representation on corporate boards, which have proven to be a successful tool in closing gender disparities in business leadership across Europe.

“Female business leaders not only deliver for the bottom line, but they serve as role models that attract fellow women to under-represented industries,” Manzo concluded. “We are at an inflection point on issues of power, economics, and gender diversity, and if we take the right steps we can finally relegate these inequities to the dustbin of history where they belong.”


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Read the report here.

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