Gender Diversity Survey—2018 Proxy Season Results

The Fenwick & West Gender Diversity Survey 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 (SV 150) and the large public companies in the Standard & Poor’s 100 Index (S&P 100).

The report reviews public filings beginning in 1996 (the first year for which electronic filings with the SEC were broadly made in the EDGAR system) through the 2018 proxy season 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.

Companies, board members and C-level executives can use this survey as a statistical benchmark for Silicon Valley leaders, as well as for comparison to the landscape of the largest public companies across the United States.

Download the report that reviews 23 years of filings to analyze the gender makeup of boards and management teams.

Key observations from the survey include:

Growth rates remain low.

  • Overall gender diversity in leadership, as measured in the Fenwick Gender Diversity Score,TMcontinues the long-term trend of slow increase, with the SV 150 continuing to improve at a faster rate than the S&P 100.
  • The representation of women on boards continued to increase between the 2016 proxy season (the last time Fenwick published the gender diversity survey) and the 2018 proxy season in the United States but at lower rates than in some countries. The average percentage of women directors increased 3.0 percentage points in the SV 150 to 17.7% in 2018 and in the S&P 100 rose 1.6 percentage points to 24.7% (with the top 15 companies in the SV 150 increasing 3.6 percentage points to 25.8%) (page 15).
  • Over the last few years 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 SV 150 overall, the percentage of companies with at least one woman director increased 7.6 percentage points to 81.6% (page 16).

New California law requires women in corporate leadership.

  • Most companies in the SV 150 would meet the new standard affecting California-based public companies set out by a new law mandating inclusion of women on boards of directors in 2019 (page 14).
  • However, our data show that most SV 150 companies will need to add women to meet the law’s 2021 standard.
  • Most companies in the S&P 100—all of which have boards with six or more directors—would meet the 2021 standard, with only 24% of this cohort having fewer than three women on their boards (the requirement for boards of six or more directors; page 16).

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.
  • Women board chairs are rare across the U.S., but the top 15 largest SV 150 companies have in recent years more frequently had women board chairs than the similarly sized S&P 100 companies, although they had a similar percentage in 2018 (page 33).
  • The top 15 of the SV 150 appointed women as lead directors — now often considered the most significant board leadership role — at roughly twice the rate of their S&P 100 peers (page 34).
  • In 2018, women were more likely than men to serve on primary board committees (audit, compensation, nominating) for S&P 100, SV 150 and the top 15 of the SV 150, showing that the women who serve on these boards, though fewer in number than men, are viewed as equal partners with their male peers. That has been the case now for half of the last 14 years.

Chief Executive Officers (page 52) — companies in the SV 150 mirror the percentage of women CEOs in the general corporate population.

  • Women CEOs continue to be a rarity in the United States, and companies in the SV 150 mirror the percentage of women CEOs in the general corporate population (approximately 4.8%). However, the S&P 100, with 8% women CEOs, meaningfully exceeds that rate.
  • The top 15 companies of the SV 150, though a small sample set, continued to come in at 13.3% with women CEOs, unchanged from the 2016 proxy season.

Named Executive Officers (NEOs) (page 46)

  • As a group, the SV 150 has shown a faster rate of increase in numbers of NEOs, generally the CEO, CFO and the highest paid executives.
  • Notably, the average percentage growth rate of women NEOs has been faster in the top 15 of the SV 150, and the SV 150 generally, than in the S&P 100.
  • What’s more, when measured in terms of likelihood of being a NEO among women that serve as executive officers, the SV 150 as a whole and the top 15 companies of the SV 150 have been significantly more likely to include women as NEOs than the S&P 100.

S&P 100 companies had more women NEOs under a woman CEO (pages 46-51).

  • Generally, our data show that women CEOs were not more likely to include women in significant roles than men serving as CEOs.
  • The following tables break down the percentage of women NEOs and women executive officers under male and female CEOs:

Percentage of Women NEOs

S&P 100

SV 150

Top 15 (SV 150)

Women NEOs under Male CEO




Women NEOs under Female CEO




Percentage of Women Executive Officers

S&P 100

SV 150

Top 15 (SV 150)

Women EOs under Male CEO




Women EOs under Female CEO




Full Coverage:

For each of the S&P 100, top 15 of the SV 150 and the full SV 150, the survey includes review of overall gender diversity in these groups (through the Fenwick Gender Diversity ScoreTM) and the gender diversity specifically of:

  • board of directors, including analysis in comparison to the recently adopted California gender quota
  • board committees
  • board and committee leadership
  • executive officers
  • NEOs
  • chief executive officer (CEO)
  • president/top operations executive
  • chief financial officer (CFO)
  • top legal officer/general counsel (GC)
  • top technology/engineering/r&d executive
  • top sales executive
  • top marketing executive
  • top corporate/business development executive

The survey also includes data broken down by the top 50, middle 50 and bottom 50 of the SV 150 in a variety of categories.