Gender Diversity at Silicon Valley Public Companies 2013

The following post comes to us from David A. Bell, partner in the corporate and securities group at Fenwick & West LLP. This post is based on a Fenwick publication, titled Gender Diversity in Silicon Valley: A Comparison of Large Public Companies and Silicon Valley Companies; the complete survey is available here.

Significantly expanding on the data in the Fenwick Corporate Governance Survey (discussed on the Forum here), Fenwick has published the first survey to analyze gender diversity on boards and executive management teams of companies in the technology and life science companies included in the Silicon Valley 150 Index (SV 150) compared to the very large public companies included in the Standard & Poor’s 100 Index (S&P 100). [1] The Fenwick Gender Diversity Survey analyzes eighteen years of public filings regarding boards and management teams—beginning with the 1996 proxy season and ending with the 2013 proxy season—to better understand changes in the leadership of some of our most important companies, and the gradual gender diversity improvements taking place. The 70-page report includes detailed analysis of:

  • gender diversity on the board of directors
  • gender diversity on board committees, including audit, compensation, nominating and other standing committees
  • gender diversity in board leadership, including board chair, lead director and committee chairs
  • gender diversity on the executive management team, including among executive officers, “named executive officers,” and various specific positions (CEO, president/top operations executive, CFO, general counsel, top technology/engineering/R&D executive, top sales executive, top marketing executive and top corporate/business development executive)

It is worth noting that the broad range of companies in the SV 150 (whether measured in terms of size, age or revenue) is associated with a similarly broad range of gender diversity. Comparison of gender diversity statistics and trends for the top 15, top 50, middle 50 and bottom 50 companies of the SV 150 (in terms of revenue) [2] bears this out, and some examples of such comparisons are included in the report.

Key takeaways from the survey include:

  • Growth rates. On average in 2013, among S&P 100 companies 19.9% of board members were women, up from 10.9% in 1996. Over the past 18 years, women board members in the SV 150 grew to 9.1% on average in 2013, up from 2.1% in 1996.
  • Size matters. While the data shows greater numbers of women in the boardrooms and executive suites of S&P 100 companies, those larger companies tend to have larger boards, and larger boards tend to have more women in terms of absolute numbers. The largest SV 150 companies, which are closer in size to the S&P 100, lead in some areas. As SV 150 companies continue to grow, opportunities for women to serve in leadership positions should scale accordingly.
  • Influencer Positions. Almost one-quarter (23.1%) of all general counsel in the SV 150 are women. In the S&P 100, that number trails closely behind at 21.1%.
  • Compensation. Women are rarely among the five most highly paid executives. In the 2013 proxy season (generally covering 2012 compensation), women were on average 10.7% of “named executive officers” in the SV 150 and 8.9% of “named executive officers” in the S&P 100.
  • Women in board positions. In 2013, 98% of S&P 100 companies had at least one woman director; in fact, women make up on average 20% of the board members of S&P 100 company boards. SV 150 companies average about half that level, and 44% do not have a woman director.
  • Women in executive positions. Women make up less than 15% of all executive positions—with the exception of general counsel and marketing roles. The executive position least likely to be held by a woman, in either S&P 100 or SV 150 companies? CEO.
  • No correlation between women CEOs or Board members and leadership positions. Boards with at least one woman member—or even with a woman CEO—do not correlate with an increased percentage of women serving as directors or executive officers in their companies.

As noted above, the gender diversity survey evolved out of a study of corporate governance more broadly, for which the norms of the S&P 100 companies are often held out as best practices. While the S&P 100 data is presented in the gender diversity report juxtaposed to that of the SV 150, they are not true direct comparisons of similar groups. [3] The companies included in the S&P 100 are a cross-section of the very largest public companies in the United States. The market capitalizations of S&P 100 companies average approximately $98B, and they have an average of 170,000 employees. The S&P 100 is not representative of all public companies in the United States or of Corporate America as a whole (just as the SV 150 is not necessarily representative of all Silicon Valley public companies or public and private companies in Silicon Valley as a whole). As a result, care must be taken when comparing the SV 150 to the S&P 100 in gender diversity, as well as in other aspects of corporate governance.

The complete Fenwick & West 2013 Gender Diversity Survey is available here.


[1] Compared to the S&P 100, SV 150 companies are generally much smaller and younger, have lower revenue and are concentrated in the high technology and life science industries. The SV 150 is made up of the largest public companies in Silicon Valley by one measure—revenue. The 2013 constituent companies of the SV 150 range from Apple and Hewlett-Packard (HP) with revenue of approximately $165B and $119B, respectively, to Zhone Technologies (Zhone) and Jive Software (Jive) with revenue of approximately $115M and $114M, respectively, in each case for the four quarters ended on or about December 31, 2012. HP went public in 1957, Apple in 1980, Zhone in 2001 and Jive in 2011. Apple and HP’s peers clearly include companies in the S&P 100, of which they are also constituent members (eight companies were constituents of both indices for the survey in the 2013 proxy season). Zhone and Jive’s peers are smaller technology companies that went public over the last half decade or so and have market capitalizations well under $1B. In terms of number of employees, the SV 150 averages 8,500 employees, ranging from HP with 331,800 employees spread around the world in dozens of countries to companies such as Ubiquiti Networks with 150 employees in four countries, as of the end of their respective fiscal years 2012.
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[2] The top 15, top 50, middle 50 and bottom 50 companies of the SV 150, include companies with revenue in the following respective ranges: $5.4B or more, $1.2B or more, $270M but less than $1.1B, and $114M but less than $270M. The respective average market capitalizations of these groups are $87B, $34B, $2.2B and $866M.
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[3] The S&P 100 is not a cross section of companies across all size ranges in addition to crossing all industries. If seeking to make a more direct comparison in the study, focus should be directed to the data for the top 15 companies of the SV 150 when comparing to the S&P 100. See also the discussions of other studies of broader groups of companies, including smaller companies, discussed in footnotes 26 and 28 of the report.
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