Business & Real Estate

UC Davis study: Women make advances in leading California’s top companies

Over the past year, women made some gains in the number of executive and board positions held among California’s top public companies, but wide gaps still exist in overall numbers and compensation for women compared with their male counterparts.

The 11th annual study released Monday night by the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, said women hold 12.3 percent of the highest-paid executive positions and board seats in the 400 largest public companies based in California, up slightly from 11.5 percent the previous year.

Women held 8.8 percent of the top positions in 2007. The sizes of the companies are determined by market capitalization.

UCD noted that, for the first time in the history of the study, the number of companies with no women dropped below 100 – to 92, or 23 percent of all companies listed.

In a statement accompanying the study results, Ann Huff Stevens, dean of the UCD management school, noted the gains, adding: “We know that a more representative, diverse group of leaders can change decision-making and outcomes in companies. California has been a leader in many areas, and these results point out the opportunity for California to take the lead in increasing women’s presence in corporate leadership.”

Among industries represented by at least 10 companies, the study said the state’s software sector has the greatest proportion of women directors, with 15.5 percent. Researchers said the statewide financial-services sector has the greatest percentage of women who are among the highest-paid executives, at 14.1 percent.

San Francisco-based kitchenware and furnishings retailer Williams-Sonoma Inc. ranked No. 1 with 57.1 percent of its leadership consisting of women.

Westlake Village-based health care real estate investment trust LTC Properties Inc. ranked second with women making up 50 percent of the companywide leadership. All other ranked firms were below 50 percent.

San Francisco-based Wells Fargo Bank ranked sixth – up from ninth last year – with women in 40.9 percent of company leadership positions.

Other study statistics continued to weigh heavily in favor of men.

Of the 3,260 board positions, women hold 432, or 13.3, percent of seats; men hold 2,828 positions, or 86.7 percent. Still, the latest numbers represent a 6.5 percent increase for women compared with last year.

Of the 1,823 highest-paid executives, 191, or 10.5 percent, are women, and 1,632, or 89.5 percent, are men. Seventeen companies have a female chief executive officer, while 52 have a female chief financial officer.

Median executive compensation is $2.1 million for men and $1.9 million for women, according to the study.

Mark Glover: 916-321-1184, @markhglover