The State of Women’s Leadership in the World’s 5th Largest Economy, California

California ranks as the world’s fifth largest economy, so taking the pulse of women’s leadership in the state is a good indication of women’s potential for power.

We’ve been encouraging women’s leadership with a Women Leaders LA career event coming up in El Segundo on June 20, 2019.  It was helpful to gain perspective on the broader quantitative realities across California found in Mount Saint Mary’s University’s “Intersections: Identity, Access, & Equity: The Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California 2019.” Emerald Archer, Director, Center for Women’s Advancement, Mount Saint Mary’s University is a leader of this report, and she will also be moderating our upcoming Women CEOs/Presidents Career Panel.

While the report is broad in its nature, our focus in reviewing it is to understand the progress women have made as leaders and owners within business and public sectors in California. As a guide, women nationally make up 10-13% of CEOs of middle and smaller sized organizations. The California women’s report found that women are 4% of the state’s top 400 public company CEOs, 13% of directors, 30% of state legislators, and 41% of management occupations (including middle management).

The State of Women’s Leadership in the World’s 5th Largest Economy, California

Women’s Representation by Occupation

The State of Women’s Leadership in the World’s 5th Largest Economy, California

There is considerable variation by occupation. 26% of California’s 1.2 million STEM workers are women. Numbers are higher in other areas, with women representing 40% of attorneys, and nearly 50% of judges and magistrates. And in fields traditionally “gender-typed” as female, the numbers are very high: 96% of childcare workers, 91% of secretaries and office assistants, 83% of RNs, 77% of healthcare support positions, 75% of elementary school teachers and 73% of counselors and social workers.

Women-Owned Businesses

California has 1.55 million women-owned businesses, which employ over 1 million people.  Many of these women-owned business are small in size, with an average of less than one employee per business. 

Women of Color and Positions of Power

One major point highlighted by the report is that most women’s leadership positions today are held by white women, except in the case of women-owned businesses.

Of the 4% of women CEOs in top 400 public companies, only 11% of those are women of color. Eleven percent of 4% is a very small number and indicates significant opportunity for growth.

We can celebrate that 59% of California women-owned businesses are led by women of color, although the businesses tend to be smaller. These businesses represent 38% of employment, consistent with other studies that found smaller size for ethnic-owned businesses. Women-owned businesses headed by white women account for 62% of employment and 63% of sales revenue, although that represents just 41% of women-owned businesses in California.

Women have come a long way in business since the early days of feminism, however women’s attainment of positions of power hasn’t tracked with their educational achievements and experience levels. Encouraging leadership for women is still an important function for both individual activists and companies.