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Women in Leadership: Silicon Valley 150 vs. the S&P 100 – Fenwick Releases First Ever Survey Of Gender Diversity

Analyzing 18 years of Board and Executive Leadership Data

​Mountain View, CA (December 11, 2013) – Fenwick & West, one of the nation’s premier law firms providing comprehensive legal services to technology, venture capital and life sciences companies, today announced the results of the first survey to analyze gender diversity on boards and executive management teams of companies in the Silicon Valley 150 Index (SV 150) compared to the Standard & Poor’s 100 Index (S&P 100).

The survey analyzes eighteen years of public filings regarding boards and management teams – beginning with the 1996 proxy season and ending with the 2013 proxy season – to better understand changes in the leadership of some of our most important companies, and the gradual gender diversity improvements taking place.

“Our survey of gender diversity in leadership positions and board rooms of both the S&P 100 and SV 150 reveals both a story of meaningful improvement and of considerable room for additional improvement,” said survey co-author David A. Bell, partner in the corporate practice at Fenwick & West. “Women are almost half of the workforce and hold slightly more than half of the management positions nationally, but average less than a fifth of leadership positions in our largest companies both nationally and in Silicon Valley. An important step in making progress in this area is gaining a better understanding of the current environment. Until now so much of our discussions of gender diversity in senior leadership positions, particularly in Silicon Valley, have been based on personal observation of a small number of situations – and measured over a short period of time.”

The Gender Diversity Survey, at 70 pages, is exhaustive and detailed, and as such provides context for questions and conversations on the subject rather than definitive answers. “Our survey is intended to serve as a statistical benchmark for companies and men and women on the Board and at the C-level in Silicon Valley in comparison to large public companies,” Bell added.

Bell noted that the survey does not indicate a simple solution. “The questions we can ask are those that focus on gender diversity across the ecosystem,” he said. “There are a wide range of factors that contribute to the level of gender diversity in leadership positions from the size of the organization and the board to circumstances and choices made by individuals many years ago, some of which are disproportionate in the technology and life sciences industries.”

Key takeaways from the survey include:

  • Growth rates. On average in 2013, among S&P 100 companies 19.9% of board members were women, up from 10.9% in 1996. Over the past 18 years, women board members in the SV 150 grew to 9.1% on average in 2013, up from 2.1% in 1996.
  • Size matters. While the data shows greater numbers of women in the boardrooms and executive suites of S&P 100 companies, those larger companies tend to have larger boards, and larger boards tend to have more women in terms of absolute numbers. The largest SV 150 companies, which are closer in size to the S&P 100 lead in some areas. As SV 150 companies continue to grow, opportunities for women to serve in leadership positions should scale accordingly.
  • Influencer Positions. Almost one-quarter (23.1%) of all general counsel in the SV 150 are women. In the S&P 100, that number trails closely behind at 21.1%.
  • Compensation. Women are rarely among the five most highly paid executives. In the 2013 proxy season (generally covering 2012 compensation), women were on average 10.7% of “named executive officers” in the SV 150 and 8.9% of “named executive officers” in the S&P 100.
  • Women in board positions. In 2013, 98% of S&P 100 companies had at least one woman director; in fact, women make up on average 20% of the board members of S&P 100 company boards. SV 150 companies average about half that level, and 43% do not have a woman director.
  • Women in executive positions. Women make up less than 15% of all executive positions – with the exception of General Counsel and Marketing roles. The executive position least likely to be held by a woman, in either S&P 100 or SV 150 companies? CEO.
  • No correlation between women CEOs or Board members and leadership positions. Boards with at least one woman member – or even with a woman CEO – do not correlate with an increased percentage of women serving as directors or executive officers in their companies.

Prominent Silicon Valley leader, Shellye Archambeau, who is CEO of MetricStream and serves on the board and was previously chair of the nonprofit Watermark organization for executive women is supportive of the effort saying, “We have a long way to go in terms of reaching parity for female leaders, but it’s helpful to have real data as part of the conversation.” Archambeau, who was recently elected to Verizon’s Board of Directors, went on to say, “I appreciate David’s work on this survey, shedding light on areas where the trend is positive as well as on areas for growth.”

The genesis for the Gender Diversity Survey came from the Fenwick Corporate Governance Survey, which Bell also authors. As he studied corporate governance trends, Bell realized that gender diversity data had never been collected and analyzed for boards of the SV 150 over a long time period. He elected to track the number of women on the boards and executive management teams of high technology and life science companies because women have the potential to greatly expand the talent pool in Silicon Valley and they can be more readily and accurately measured in public filings than other traditional diversity factors. 

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

About the Survey
The Fenwick & West Gender Diversity Survey, co-authored by law firm partner David A. Bell and associate Shulamite Shen White, provides exclusive insight into women’s participation in leadership positions of the companies included in the Standard & Poor’s 100 Index (S&P 100) and the technology and life science companies included in the Silicon Valley 150 Index (SV 150). This unique body of information, covering gender diversity trends for the period between the 1996 proxy season through the 2013 proxy season, is valuable for publicly traded technology and life sciences companies across the U.S. as well as public companies of all sizes and across industries generally.