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Apple, National Semiconductor among California companies with no women at the top

Korean-American bank has highest percentage of women in top management

Nearly one in three of the 400 largest public companies headquartered in California – including household names Apple, Callaway Golf and Skechers USA – have no women at the top, according to a study reported today by University of California, Davis, researchers. At the other end of the spectrum, five firms, led by the Los Angeles-based Nara Bancorp, have women in 35 percent to 46 percent of their top posts.

The third annual UC Davis Study of California Women Business Leaders found that 122 of the 400 surveyed companies – 30.5 percent – listed no women executives or board members in their annual reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Telecommunications, electronics and semiconductors were the most male-dominated industries. Silicon Valley and Orange County had the highest concentrations of male-dominated firms.

The study was reported today at the annual conference of the San Francisco-based Professional BusinessWomen of California, held at the Sacramento Convention Center. Overall, women held only 10.4 percent of board seats and executive positions, virtually the same as the 10.2-percent figure reported in 2006 and 2005. Only 3 percent of the surveyed companies had a female CEO, also representing no increase from the previous studies.

“Too many board rooms and executive suites in California still look more like 1957 than 2007 in terms of gender equity. And we’ve seen no real change in three years,” said Nicole Woolsey Biggart, dean of the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, which conducted the study in partnership with the Palo Alto-based Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and Executives.

“At a time when public companies are suffering from lapses in corporate governance and failures in leadership, they cannot afford to ignore the talent and perspective available in half the population and close to half the work force.”

Leading the state in gender diversity was a Los Angeles-based firm, Nara Bancorp, which serves consumers and minority-owned businesses through nearly 20 branches in Korean districts in California and New York. Nearly half – 46.2 percent – of the firm’s executive and board seats are held by women.

“We have created a culture where people know that those who are aggressive and deliver will rise to the top, regardless of age, gender or other factors,” said Min Jung Kim, president, CEO and board director of Nara Bancorp. “That culture attracts and allows us to keep top talent, and is at the root of our company’s success.”

Joining Nara Bancorp in the top five companies were San Francisco-based Bare Escentuals, with women in 45.5 percent of the top spots; Bebe Stores, headquartered in Brisbane, at 43.5 percent; Hot Topic, based in City of Industry, at 36 percent; and San Diego-based Jack in the Box, at 35 percent.

In all, 25 companies with the highest percentages of women in top leadership positions received awards at a luncheon Tuesday at the PBWC conference.

“We’re proud to honor companies with the wisdom to recognize the value of placing highly qualified women in such positions,” said PBWC founder and former California state Sen. Jackie Speier. “We also see how the many companies represented at today’s conference are working hard to increase support from early on in their female employees’ careers so that future openings in top positions will be better represented by women.”

Seven other institutions and organizations nationwide publish similar annual studies on the status of women in public companies, coordinated through the InterOrganization Network, based in Fort Washington, Penn.

“The new study by UC Davis and the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and Executives, together with the others done at the national level, paint a disappointing picture of gender diversity in the upper echelons of corporate leadership in America,” said FWE&E CEO Wendy Beecham. “At FWE&E, we have created educational and networking programs to encourage our members to seek board service and urge corporations to take advantage of such programs to select highly qualified women for their open positions.”

In the 2007 and 2006 studies, UC Davis researchers used Standard & Poor data to identify the top 400 companies headquartered in California by net revenue. The researchers, led by associate finance professor Katrina Ellis, then compiled information about the company directors and top executives from the firms’ Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

Top executives, defined as those listed as members of the companies’ executive teams in their SEC filings, typically included the CEO or president, chief financial officer, chief information officer and chief operating officer. Some companies also included corporate counsel, the head of human relations and executive vice presidents.

The first study, in 2005, looked at half as many companies and only the top five highest-paid executives at each company.

Other findings from the latest study:

Women hold 9.4 percent of the 3,283 board seats in the 400 largest public companies in California, up from 8.8 percent in 2006.

Almost half – 47 percent – of the companies have no women directors and more than a third – 34.3 percent – have only one.

Women hold 11.6 percent of the companies’ 2,878 top executive offices, down slightly from 11.7 percent in 2006.

Half – 49.8 percent – of the companies have no women in executive offices and less than a quarter – 21.9 percent – have two or more.

Only 3 percent of the companies have a woman serving as CEO.

Retail and finance industries had the highest percentages of women in top executive positions. Pharmaceuticals and media had the highest concentrations of women on the board.

Three fourths – 76 percent – of the telecommunications industry and two-thirds – 67 percent – of the electronics industry had all-male boards. Similarly, 73 percent of telecom companies and 83 percent of electronics companies had all-male executive teams.

The largest corporations, overall, have the most gender equity.

Among counties with more than 20 companies in the survey, San Francisco County leads the state with 16.9 percent women directors. Santa Clara County has the lowest percentage, at 7.3 percent.

San Francisco and Marin counties each have 20 percent women executives; Los Angeles has 12.5 percent; San Diego County, 10.2 percent; Orange County, 9.2 percent; and Santa Clara County (Silicon Valley), 9.1 percent.

Claudia Morain | EurekAlert!
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