With women accounting for less than two percent of Fortune 500 CEOs in the United States and fewer than one in 10 line managers, the glass ceiling is still firmly in place across much of corporate America.
Yet according to the National Association for Female Executives' (NAFE) annual list of Top 30 Companies for Executive Women, some of America's smartest and most profitable companies are finding innovative ways of developing and advancing their talented women-and seeing results.
"Because women now hold managerial positions at most American companies, women's advancement remains a problem that many don't recognize as one," said Dr. Betty Spence, President of NAFE.
"In organizations where women are truly succeeding - where we find women running divisions and country operations-they have implemented tough measures, like having the board review succession planning and compensation for gender equity, and holding managers accountable with their own advancement and pay.
"These are policies with teeth, and I look forward to the day when all companies follow the lead of the NAFE Top 30."
Among the NAFE Top 30 companies, more than nine out of 10 conduct employee surveys to determine their satisfaction with advancement opportunities, with most saying that they adjust their policies and practices as a result of survey responses.
Three-quarters have formal compensation policies that reward managers who help women advance, and seven out of 10 companies hold managers individually accountable for helping the company meet its goals regarding women's advancement.
To be named to the NAFE Top 30 Companies for Executive Women, companies with a minimum of two women on the board completed a comprehensive application that focused on the number of women in senior ranks (compared to men and to the company population), including questions about the programs and policies which support women's advancement.
But NAFE also looked beyond corporate programs and policies purportedly dedicated to advancing women, to examine their results. It looked at the number of women in the company overall, in senior management, and on its board of directors.
NAFE also scrutinized how women fared among the company's five top earners. What emerged is that among the top 30 Companies, 18.7 per cent of top earners are women, compared to under six per cent in the Fortune 500 as a whole.
All companies excelled in these areas, particularly the top 10: Bon Secours Richmond Health Service; Colgate-Palmolive Company; Federated Department Stores, Inc; General Mills; IBM Corporation; Inova Health System; Marriott International, Inc.; Merck & Co., Inc., Principal Financial Group and Yale-New Haven Hospital.
All three non-profits on the list - Bon Secours Richmond Health Service, Inova Health Systems and Yale New Haven Hospital - scored strongly in achieving a measure of gender pay equity.
This year marked the first time NAFE opened the application process to non-profits. For-profit companies DuPont and General Mills also stood-out in pay parity.
Scholastic, Hewlett-Packard, Knight Ridder and Yale New Haven Hospital were among the companies that excelled in the representation of women in top-tier positions relative to the number of women employees overall. At Yale New Haven Hospital, women fill 100 percent of the top-tier positions reporting to the CEO.
NAFE also paid attention to the number of women on corporate boards. The New York Times Company stood out here, with women representing 40 per cent of its board.
Colgate-Palmolive, General Mills and Texas Instruments also have board ratios as high as one-third female.
"These benchmarks are absolutely crucial," said Spence. "Given the recent high-profile gender bias lawsuits, the figures reported by our Top 30 Companies are refreshing and encouraging."
Aetna Inc. (Hartford, CT)
Allstate Insurance Company (Northbrook, IL)
American Express Company (New York, NY)
Bon Secours Richmond Health Service (Richmond, VA)
Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (New York, NY)
Colgate-Palmolive Company (New York, NY)
DuPont (Wilmington, DE)
Federated Department Stores, Inc (Cincinnati, OH)
Gannett Co., Inc. (McLean, VA)
Gap Inc. (San Francisco, CA)
General Mills (Minneapolis, MN)
Hewlett-Packard Company (Palo Alto, CA)
IBM Corporation (Armonk, NY)
Inova Health System (Falls Church, VA)
Knight Ridder (San Jose, CA)
Liz Claiborne, Inc. (North Bergen, NJ)
Marriott International, Inc. (Washington, DC)
Merck & Co., Inc. (Whitehouse Station, NJ)
MetLife, Inc. (Long Island City, NY)
New York Life Insurance Company (New York, NY)
Principal Financial Group (Des Moines, IA)
Sallie Mae (Reston, VA)
Scholastic (New York, NY)
Texas Instruments Incorporated (Dallas, TX)
The New York Times Company (New York, NY)
The Phoenix Companies, Inc. (Hartford, CT)
The Procter & Gamble Company (Cincinnati, OH)
WellPoint, Inc (Indianapolis, IN)
Xerox Corporation (Stamford, CT)
Yale-New Haven Hospital (New Haven, CT)