By Jaedri Wood
As of January 2021, the number of women in C-suite leadership positions for Fortune 500 companies reached an all-time high. The good news is that more women are being promoted to leadership positions. The bad news is that only 30 out of 500 CEOs within Fortune 500 companies are women—making the 2021 all-time high only 6.0%. To provide some perspective, last year there were 33 female CEOs, which was up from 24 from 2018 and 20 years ago there were only two female-led companies. While it is important to acknowledge how far women in leadership positions have come, we should also note that we are still very distant from the finish line of female equity in business—especially in the mortgage industry.
This year, there is more female C-suite representation than ever before, but gender representation does not equal gender equity. Representation means that there needs to be one woman in leadership, whereas gender equity means more than one woman (ideally, a number equal to men) per board. So why is the mortgage industry C-suite difficult for women to attain? It is no surprise that the banking industry has been historically male dominated and male-run. At the end of 2020, Jane Fraser made history when she was named the CEO of Citigroup—becoming the first woman in history to lead one of Wall Street’s big six banks. Her predecessor, Michael Corbat, held the title of CEO for eight years. People in leadership positions tend to stay there for long periods of time (10 years on average); which limits the opportunities for others to secure a position in C-suite leadership even though women are continually pursuing these high-level positions.
Research from Business Insider in March of 2021 found that women consistently ask for promotions and raises more than their male counterparts but do not get the same results as men. Harvard Business Review also found that women ask for raises just as much as men, but men receive a raise 20% of the time, while women get the raise only 15% of the time. The unfortunate truth is that women have either had no seat at the table, or a single seat at the table for decades. McKinsey & Company reported in September of 2020 that senior-level women are nearly twice as likely to be “Onlys”—the only or one of the only women in the room at work. When there is only one woman on a leadership team, she is more likely to experience microaggressions, such as needing to provide extra proof of her competence and abilities. The road to the C-suite for any woman is long and arduous. The gender pay gap exists, and much of the general business culture does not embrace senior-level female success. The good news is that although the professional gender gap is large, it is narrowing. Closing the gap starts with companies recognizing the gender disparity in their workplace and questioning who is sitting at the leadership table and why. Asking these questions is what spurred the creation of Phoenix as a women-owned small business.
At PhoenixTeam, 4 of our 6 partners are women and many of our senior-level team members are women. We believe not only in gender representation, but gender equity. Numerous studies conclude that workplaces with more women team members have larger successes in profitability and company culture, compared to those that do not. Beyond the statistics, we believe and encourage the success of all our team members, regardless of gender. As a women-owned small business in the mortgage consulting industry, we know the struggles that those before us have faced, and we have no difficulty empowering all team members to achieve their professional goals and guarantee equity for all.