Is There Still a Glass Ceiling for Women in Business?

Last Updated Aug 25, 2009 3:28 PM EDT

Forbes just released its list of The World's 100 Most Powerful Women, which includes "-- women who run countries, big companies or influential nonprofits." The rankings are a combination of visibility in the media and the size of the organization or country they lead.

What impressed me wasn't just the number of women business leaders, but the long list of names that were familiar to me. Still, in terms of breaking the glass ceiling, we're not there yet.

Some months ago, I wrote about technology being a male dominated industry in terms of senior management (see Is Tech a Good Old Boy's Club for Executives?). I did my own informal investigation of five big technology firms (Cisco, Google, IBM, Intel and Microsoft) and found 22 of their top 147 executives, or 15 percent, were women.

Personally, I spent about 12 years working at the executive management level with hundreds of senior executives. About five of them were women.

According to research from Grant Thornton International, women hold 24 percent of senior management positions globally and 20 percent in the U.S.
So the bottom Line is that the glass ceiling is still there. It's getting better, slowly, but it's still there. And, according to my own anecdotal and non-scientific research, the technology industry is behind the curve.

All that said, it's an impressive list. Here's my selection of 20 women business leaders and their ranking on the Forbes List:
  • 3 Indra Nooyi, Chief executive, PepsiCo
  • 6 Irene Rosenfeld, Chief executive, Kraft Foods
  • 7 Ellen Kullman, Chief executive, DuPont
  • 8 Angela Braly, Chief executive, WellPoint
  • 10 Lynn Elsenhans, Chief executive, Sunoco
  • 12 Carol Bartz, Chief executive, Yahoo
  • 14 Ursula Burns, Chief executive, Xerox
  • 15 Anne Mulcahy, Chairman, Xerox
  • 16 Safra Catz, President, Oracle
  • 21 Mary Sammons, Chief executive, Rite Aid
  • 25 Andrea Jung, Chief executive, Avon
  • 29 Brenda Barnes, Chief executive, Sara Lee
  • 54 Gail Boudreaux, President, UnitedHealthcare
  • 59 Susan Ivey, Chief executive, Reynolds American
  • 63 Stacey Snider, Chief Executive, DreamWorks Studios
  • 80 Hyun Jeong-eun, Chairman, Hyundai
  • 90 Janice Fields, Chief operating officer, McDonald's USA
  • 91 Stephanie Burns, Chief executive, Dow Corning
  • 96 Charlene Begley, Chief executive, GE Enterprise Solutions
  • 98 Sharon Allen, Chairman, Deloitte LLC
What are your impressions of the environment for women executives in business? We'd all love to hear your stories about the glass ceiling in action ... or not.

Also, here's what I've had to say about a couple of these leaders, once glowing, one not so much:
[Image of Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz courtesy of Autodesk]

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