NEW YORK - Despite the recent shocks to corporate America and the faltering economy, women continue to make gains in reaching the upper echelons of Fortune 500 companies, according to a recent survey.
The number of female corporate officers at Fortune 500 companies inched up 3.2 percentage points over the past two years, according to the biannual survey by Catalyst, a women's advocacy group in New York.
"Historically, in down economies, women tend to be hit very hard. We have data showing that this has not happened, which is a surprise for many," said Sheila Wellington, president of Catalyst.
Women now make up 15.7 percent of the top-ranking executives at America's largest companies - or 2,140 of the 13,673 total - compared with 12.5 percent in 2000 and 8.7 percent in 1995 when Catalyst began keeping track.
"While the pace of change is steady, it is also slow," Ms. Wellington said.
Women held 7.9 percent, or 191 of the 2,412 "corporate clout titles," which Catalyst defined as chief executive, chairman, vice chairman, president, chief operating officer, senior executive vice president and executive vice president. That is an increase of 1.7 percentage points from the 6.2 percent in 1997.
The number of female chief executives also increased, to six, comprising 1.2 percent of the Fortune 500 CEO population, an increase from two women CEOs in 2000 and one in 1995.
As of March 31 - the survey's cutoff date - 71 Fortune 500 companies had no women corporate officers. Women make up almost 47 percent of the U.S. labor force.
WOMEN ON TOP
Fortune 500 companies with female CEOs: