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Women In Industry 2015

C&EN’s annual scorecard of women serving at top posts in the chemical industry reveals big gains

by Alexander H. Tullo
August 31, 2015 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 93, ISSUE 34

This is the biggest year ever for women in the U.S. chemical industry.

UPWARD TREND
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Women have made big gains in the upper ranks of the chemical industry over the past few years. SOURCE: C&EN
BIG ROLES
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The most likely job for a female top executive in the chemical industry is heading the human resources department.
NOTE: Data based on companies listed on page 17.
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The most likely job for a female top executive in the chemical industry is heading the human resources department.
NOTE: Data based on companies listed on page 17.

According to C&EN’s annual survey, women occupy some 16.2% of board seats at 42 U.S. companies with significant chemical businesses. This is a record. So too is the 13.2% of executive officer positions held by women. For the third year in a row, women posted gains in both categories.

With the good news in mind, C&EN is revamping the feature, which has appeared annually since 2000, with a new look and additional information.

AROUND THE WORLD
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The percentage of board seats that are occupied by women at public firms in … SOURCE: Catalyst
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The percentage of board seats that are occupied by women at public firms in … SOURCE: Catalyst

Gone is the yearly article about women’s corporate advancement. This was fine a decade ago, when such stories were hard to find. Nowadays, they are common. “Lean In,” Sheryl Sandberg’s book offering advice to women about succeeding in the corporate world, sold 140,000 copies the week it was released in 2013.

C&EN’s feature will focus instead on the numbers. Organizations such as Catalyst conduct surveys of women in the broader corporate world. But C&EN provides a unique look at the role of women executives in the chemical industry.

In addition, for the first time, we include a survey of women serving at 13 major European chemical companies. Close to 25% of the people on the boards of these firms are women. But women represent only 10% of top managers.

Readers should exercise caution in comparing the European data with the U.S. data because firms from countries such as Germany include employee representatives on their boards.

Similarly, the people European firms list as top managers tend to be chief executive officers and the heads of major business units. This is often a smaller and more exclusive group than the executive officers reported by U.S. firms, and it doesn’t capture women in important human resources, financial, and legal roles.

Yet in the gap between the U.S. and European managerial figures lies an important point: Despite the gains of women in the corporate world, profit and loss responsibility for individual businesses is an area where women continue to lag.  

WOMEN IN EUROPEAN CHEMICALS
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European firms have greater representation of women on their boards than in management.
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European firms have greater representation of women on their boards than in management.
CRACKING THE GLASS CEILING
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Representation of women at the top of the U.S. chemical industry shot up in 2015
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Representation of women at the top of the U.S. chemical industry shot up in 2015
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