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Fenwick Releases Gender Diversity Survey Comparing Trends Between Silicon Valley 150 and S&P 100

Tracks Participation by Women in Most Senior Levels at Tech and Life Sciences Companies Over the Last Two Decades

Mountain View, CA (March 9, 2017) – Fenwick & West today released its Gender Diversity Survey, which provides unique insight into women’s participation at the most senior levels of public technology and life sciences companies in the Silicon Valley 150 Index and the large public companies in the Standard & Poor’s 100 Index.

The report reviews public filings from 1996 through 2016 to analyze the gender makeup of boards, board leadership, board committees and executive management teams in the two groups, with special comparisons showing how the top 15 largest companies in the SV 150 fare, as they are the peers of the large public companies included in the S&P 100.

Key observations include:

Growth rates remain low.

  • The representation of women on boards continued to increase between 2014—the last year Fenwick published the Gender Diversity Survey—and 2016 in the United States but at lower rates than in other countries. The average percentage of women directors increased 4.1 percentage points in the SV 150 to 14.1% in 2016 and in the S&P 100 rose 2.2 percentage points to 23.1% (with the top 15 companies in the SV 150 increasing 6.5 percentage points to 22.2%).
  • However, in both the S&P 100 and the top 15 of the SV 150, 100% of companies have had at least one woman director in the last few years. In the SV 150 overall, the percentage of companies with at least one woman director increased 12 percentage points to 74%.
  • The average number of women directors remains low across all three groups, but their average percentage has been on a clear upward trajectory, with 23.1% in the S&P 100, 22.2% in the top 15 of the SV 150, and 14.1% in the SV 150 through the 2016 proxy season.

Size continues to matter—the bigger the company, the more diverse its leadership.

  • Larger companies by revenue and market capitalization tend to have larger boards and executive management teams, which tend to be more diverse.
  • In recent years, the top 15 largest companies in the SV 150 have surpassed the S&P 100 in percentage of women in board leadership positions, including board chairs, lead directors, and committee chairs.
  • What’s more, when measured in terms of likelihood of being in a board leadership position among women that serve as board members, the top 15 of the SV 150 and the SV 150 overall have been significantly more likely to include women in board leadership positions than the S&P 100.

Women CEOs are rare in the United States, but companies in the SV 150 and S&P 100 exceed the general corporate population.

  • Women Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) continue to be a rarity in the United States but companies in the SV 150, with 6% women CEOs, and the S&P 100, with 7% women CEOs, appear to slightly exceed the percentage of women CEOs in the general corporate population (approximately 4%).
  • The top 15 companies of the SV 150, though a small sample set, notched a notable increase in women CEOs, coming in at 13.3%.

Women NEOs are more likely in the SV 150 than the S&P 100.

  • The average percentage growth rate of women NEOs—executives that are generally the most highly compensated and in some sense those that a company considers among the most important—has been faster in the SV 150 (approximately 705% growth) than in the S&P 100 (approximately 544% growth).
  • What’s more, when measured in terms of likelihood of being an NEO among women that serve as executive officers, the SV 150 has been significantly more likely to include women as NEOs than the S&P 100, and in the most recent year the top 15 of the SV 150 were slightly more likely to include women than men as NEOs.

The Top 15 of SV 150 had more women NEOs under a woman CEO.

  • The top 15 of the SV 150 have a significantly higher percentage of NEOs (25%) when the CEO is a woman compared to the full SV 150 (14%) and the S&P 100 (7%).
  • Care should be taken when comparing statistics for women and men serving as CEO, as the number of women CEOs is very low.

“Our data shows that women in senior leadership positions continue to be significantly underrepresented relative to their percentage in the general population and the broader U.S. workforce,” Fenwick corporate partner Kristine Di Bacco noted. “That said, there are some pockets of improvement that are worth noting, especially in the top 15 largest of the Silicon Valley 150 companies.”

Di Bacco pointed to the increase of women board leaders in Silicon Valley companies, including the appointments of women as lead directors—now often considered the most significant board leadership role—and the growth rate of women NEOs, which are also deemed positions of significance in terms of prominence, responsibility and compensation.

Gerri Elliott, a member of the board of directors at Imperva and a member of the Advisory Board for BoardList, the Silicon Valley initiative to increase the number of women on tech boards, noted, “Gender diversity is an issue I care deeply about. I appreciate David Bell, Kristine Di Bacco and Fenwick’s work on this survey, which looks at decades of data to delve more deeply into women’s representation among public company boards. The approach is balanced and reveals bright spots without detracting from areas where tech and life sciences companies need to continue focusing on increased parity.”

Complete results of the survey with related discussion are available on Fenwick & West’s website at Fenwick.com/GenderDiversity.

About the Survey
The Fenwick & West Gender Diversity Survey is co-authored by corporate partners David A. Bell and Kristine M. Di Bacco. The survey looks at public companies included in the Standard & Poor’s 100 Index (S&P 100) and the high technology and life sciences companies included in the Silicon Valley 150 Index (SV 150) with an eye toward women’s participation in leadership positions. This in-depth set of information covers gender diversity trends for the period between the 1996 proxy season through the 2016 proxy season.

About Fenwick & West
Fenwick & West LLP provides comprehensive legal services to ground-breaking technology and life sciences companies – at every stage of their lifecycle – and the investors that partner with them. We craft innovative, cost-effective and practical solutions on issues ranging from venture capital, public offerings, joint ventures, M&A and strategic relationships, to intellectual property, litigation and dispute resolution, taxation, antitrust, and employment and labor law. For more than four decades, Fenwick has helped some of the world's most recognized companies become and remain market leaders. For more information, please visit fenwick.com​.

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