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March 1, 2007

WOMEN LAG IN OFFICER, DIRECTOR SPOTS

 

The metals industry lags when it comes to creating opportunities for women as officers and directors. But it’s hardly the worst.

It’s difficult to tell how the metals industry is doing when it comes to diversity because many companies are privately held and aren’t obligated to disclose the number of women and minorities in top management or on the board of directors. Two of the best available barometers are the surveys of Fortune 500 companies by the New York-based nonprofit advocacy group Catalyst, which strives to promote opportunity for women in business.

In its most recent survey of Fortune 500 companies covering 2005, Catalyst found that women held an average of 14.7% of all board seats, with an average increase of 0.5 percentage points over the past 10 years. That compares with 12.1% female board representation for the seven metals companies in the Fortune 500.

Metals companies are a long way from the top. Women directors held 22% of the seats in healthcare insurance, 20.7% at food and drug stores and 19.5% at pharmaceutical companies. At the low end of the spectrum, traditionally male dominated fields such as aerospace and defense, railroads, and oil and gas equipment had a lower percentage of women who are directors than the metals industry. The worst was pipelines at 2.2%.

The picture is similar in the executive suite, where women represent 11.4% of corporate officers in the metals industry, lagging the 16.4% average for Fortune 500 companies. The numbers were better for fields such as apparel (31.1%), healthcare insurance (25.6%) and general merchandisers (23.7%). But the metals industry wasn’t at the bottom there either. The furniture, freight delivery and textile industries had representation of 3.1% or less.

The numbers for women would have been lower had it not been for Alcoa Inc., whose roster of 40 corporate officers includes 12 women; two women are represented on the 10-member executive council that sets company policy. Alcoa and AK Steel Holding Corp. each had two female directors.

Traditionally in manufacturing, women have landed in staff positions in the finance, legal and human resources departments, but haven’t held the operating positions that usually lead to the top job. But an Alcoa spokeswoman says that’s changing. Women are beginning to hold positions in manufacturing and plant management. Alcoa, with $30.4 billion in sales, has an active diversity program, as do other Fortune 500 companies including U.S. Steel Corp.

U.S. Steel was the only metals company of the 122 Fortune 500 companies with at least one top-earning woman corporate officer—Gretchen R. Haggerty, executive vice president and chief financial officer, who in 2005 earned $2.4 million in total compensation, the company’s most recent proxy statement shows.