Gender Diversity at Silicon Valley Public Companies 2016

David A. Bell and Kristine M. Di Bacco are partners in the corporate and securities group at Fenwick & West LLP. This post is based on portions of a Fenwick publication.

Fenwick & West has released its updated study about gender diversity on boards and executive management teams of companies in the technology and life science companies included in the Silicon Valley 150 Index and very large public companies included in the Standard & Poor’s 100 Index. [1] The Fenwick Gender Diversity Survey uses over 20 years of data to provide a better picture of women’s participation at the most senior levels of public companies in Silicon Valley.

The report reviews public filings from 1996 through 2016 to analyze the gender makeup of boards, board leadership, board committees and executive management teams in the two groups, with special comparisons showing how the top 15 largest companies in the SV 150 fare, as they are the peers of the large public companies included in the S&P 100.

Key observations include:

Growth rates remain low.

  • The representation of women on boards continued to increase between 2014—the last year Fenwick published the Gender Diversity Survey—and 2016 in the United States but at lower rates than in other countries. The average percentage of women directors increased 4.1 percentage points in the SV 150 to 14.1% in 2016 and in the S&P 100 rose 2.2 percentage points to 23.1% (with the top 15 companies in the SV 150 increasing 6.5 percentage points to 22.2%).
  • However, in both the S&P 100 and the top 15 of the SV 150, 100% of companies have had at least one woman director in the last few years. In the SV 150 overall, the percentage of companies with at least one woman director increased 12 percentage points to 74%.
  • The average number of women directors remains low across all three groups, but their average percentage has been on a clear upward trajectory, with 23.1% in the S&P 100, 22.2% in the top 15 of the SV 150, and 14.1% in the SV 150 through the 2016 proxy season.

Size continues to matter—the bigger the company, the more diverse its leadership.

  • Larger companies by revenue and market capitalization tend to have larger boards and executive management teams, which tend to be more diverse.
  • In recent years, the top 15 largest companies in the SV 150 have surpassed the S&P 100 in percentage of women in board leadership positions, including board chairs, lead directors, and committee chairs.
  • What’s more, when measured in terms of likelihood of being in a board leadership position among women that serve as board members, the top 15 of the SV 150 and the SV 150 overall have been significantly more likely to include women in board leadership positions than the S&P 100.

Women CEOs are rare in the United States, but companies in the SV 150 and S&P 100 exceed the general corporate population.

  • Women Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) continue to be a rarity in the United States but companies in the SV 150, with 6% women CEOs, and the S&P 100, with 7% women CEOs, appear to slightly exceed the percentage of women CEOs in the general corporate population (approximately 4%).
  • The top 15 companies of the SV 150, though a small sample set, notched a notable increase in women CEOs, coming in at 13.3%.

Women NEOs are more likely in the SV 150 than the S&P 100.

  • The average percentage growth rate of women NEOs—executives that are generally the most highly compensated and in some sense those that a company considers among the most important—has been faster in the SV 150 (approximately 705% growth) than in the S&P 100 (approximately 544% growth).
  • What’s more, when measured in terms of likelihood of being an NEO among women that serve as executive officers, the SV 150 has been significantly more likely to include women as NEOs than the S&P 100, and in the most recent year the top 15 of the SV 150 were slightly more likely to include women than men as NEOs.

The Top 15 of SV 150 had more women NEOs under a woman CEO.

  • The top 15 of the SV 150 have a significantly higher percentage of NEOs (25%) when the CEO is a woman compared to the full SV 150 (14%) and the S&P 100 (7%).
  • Care should be taken when comparing statistics for women and men serving as CEO, as the number of women CEOs is very low.

As discussed previously, 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. However, as noted above, size is a significant factor in the diversity statistics studied. Consequently, 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. As a result, throughout the survey we compare the top 15 of the SV 150 to the S&P 100 because the top 15 are more similar in size to the S&P 100 and therefore a more apt comparison group than the full SV 150. The survey also includes data broken down by the top 50, middle 50 and bottom 50 of the SV 150 (by revenue) in a variety of categories.

Full Coverage:

For each of the S&P 100, top 15 of the SV 150 and the full SV 150, the report includes detailed analysis of:

  • overall gender diversity (Fenwick Gender Diversity ScoreTM)
  • 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)

The complete survey is available here.


1The S&P 100 is a cross-section of companies across industries, but is not a cross-section of companies across all size ranges (it represents the largest companies in the United States). While the SV 150 is made up of the largest public companies in Silicon Valley by one measure—revenue, it is actually a fairly broad cross-section of companies by size, but is limited to the technology and life science companies based in Silicon Valley. Compared to the S&P 100, SV 150 companies are generally much smaller and younger, have lower revenue. The 2016 constituent companies of the SV 150 range from Apple and Alphabet with revenue of approximately $235B and $75B, respectively, to FibroGen and TubeMogul, with revenue of approximately $181M each, in each case for the four quarters ended on or about December 31, 2016. Apple went public in 1980, Alphabet (as Google) in 2004, and FibroGen and TubeMogul each in 2014. Apple and Alphabet’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 2016 proxy season), where market capitalization averages approximately $142B. FibroGen and TubeMogul’s peers are smaller technology companies that went public more recently and have market capitalizations well under $1B, many of which went public relatively recently. In terms of number of employees, the SV 150 averages 9,535 employees (with a median of 1,803 employees), ranging from Hewlett Packard Enterprise with 240,000 employees across dozens of countries to companies such as Five Prime Therapeutics with 154 employees all in the United States, as of the end of their respective fiscal years 2015. The S&P 100 averages approximately 150,000 employees and includes Wal-Mart with 2.3 million employees in more than two dozen countries at its most recent fiscal year end. The S&P 100 companies are not necessarily representative of companies in the United States generally, just as the SV 150 companies are not necessarily representative of Silicon Valley generally.(go back)

2The top 15, top 50, middle 50 and bottom 50 companies of the SV 150, include companies with revenue in the following respective ranges: $6.7B or more, $1.6B or more, $400M but less than $1.5B, and $181M but less than $400M. The respective average market capitalizations of these groups are $152B, $54B, $3.3B and $979M.(go back)


Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.