Best of 2013: Shattering the Glass Ceiling

2013 has been somewhat of a roller coaster for feminists. We’ve experienced myriad setbacks as well as victories, from  abortion rights, to (mis)representation in the media and politics. These so-called “sexy” and controversial topics tend to dominate the news, and understandably so. But this year also bore witness to some pretty great moments of women shattering that pesky glass ceiling.

Women in leadership roles — whether as Chief Executives, Board members, politicians, government officials or military commanders — are vital for the longevity and health of society. Women comprise half of the population, and as such, must have equal representation at all tables. Our voices, concerns, ideas and experiences will otherwise be curtailed; the ensuing ripple effect extends to our communities, families and future generations. It’s not just common sense, it’s good business. As Nick Kristof recently pointed out,

Catalyst, a research organization, found that the companies with the most women board directors earned a 26 percent higher return on invested capital than the companies with the least women.

Likewise, McKinsey & Company found that the international companies with more women on their corporate boards far outperformed the average company in return on equity and other measures. Operating profit was 56 percent higher.

So why does 18 seem to be the magic percentile? Only 18% of Fortune 500 companies‘ boards are female and 18% of Congressional seats are filled by women. What’s equally disturbing and exciting is that this 18% represents progress.

Yes, there’s much work to be done. But while we continue to fight for the remaining 32% of the pie, we must also focus on the good. So, without further ado, here is a recap of our favorite shattered glass ceiling moments of 2013:

Mary Barra, General Motors

The automotive industry is traditionally a male-dominated one from the top down. But Mary Barra, recently named GM’s CEO, is changing that. Trained as an engineer, she joins about 20 women, a third with science backgrounds, who now run U.S. companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

Michelle Howard, U.S. Navy

President Obama named Michelle Howard the first-ever 4-star Navy admiral. She famously helped rescue Captain Richard Phillips when he was taken hostage by Somali pirates in 2009 and is part of the inspiration for the film Captain Phillips.

Lynn Good, Duke Energy

Chock-full of business acumen, Lynn Good took the helm as Duke Energy’s CEO this past July, after having served as Chief Financial Officer for several years. She also serves as Vice Chair of the company’s Board of Directors.

U.S. Congress

While 18% female representation in Congress is completely insufficient, it is a record high. Women hold 99 seats in the 113th U.S. Congress (18.5%): 20 in the Senate (20%) and 79 (18.2%) in the House of Representatives. This is up from 17 female Senators and 73 Representatives in the 112th Congress. Just imagine the leaps and bounds for our country’s women if there were more of us at the table.

Marjorie Scardino, Twitter

Twitter finally succumbed to public pressure and named Marjorie Scardino its first female Board member. Scardino was formerly the CEO of Pearson, an education and media conglomerate. When she was appointed to CEO, she became the first female Chief Executive of a FTSE 100 company.

Onwards and upwards, ladies.

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Categories: Money

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