The 'glass ceiling': the bad spin
12/12/2002 12:00:00 AM - Larry Elder
So, how goes the "corporate fight for women"? Not well, at least
according to The New York Times.
Catalyst, a research firm, regularly publishes a report on the
progress of women in corporate America. The numbers showed impressive gains
from the year 2000 to 2002, a period of economic sluggishness. During that
period, the percentage of women occupying corporate officer positions rose
from 12.5 percent to 15.7 percent, or a 25 percent increase. And in the last
seven years, from 1995 to date, the number of women in corporate officer
positions has nearly doubled. In real numbers, women now hold 2,140 of the
13,673 top-ranking executive positions at Fortune 500 companies.
It also examines the number of women occupying "positions of
clout" at major corporations. "Clout titles" include CEO, chairman, vice
chairman, president, chief operating officer, senior executive vice
president and executive vice president. In the last seven years, from 1995
to date, the percentage of women occupying clout positions increased a
dizzying 400 percent, from 1.9 to 7.9 percent.
Now, many newspaper articles high-fived the achievement, both
with positive headlines and lead paragraphs:
-- Los Angeles Times headline: "Survey Finds Women Holding More
'Corporate Clout' Titles." First paragraph: (Associated Press) "Despite all
the recent shocks to corporate America and the faltering economy, women
continued to make inroads into the upper ranks at Fortune 500 companies, a
survey being released today said."
-- Dallas Morning News headline: "Women Make Gains in Corporate
World, Hold 16 Percent of 'Clout' Jobs." First paragraph: (Knight-Ridder)
"Women have nearly doubled their 'clout titles' in corporate America over
less than a decade, according to a study to be released Monday by the New
York research firm Catalyst."
-- USA Today headline: "Women Gain Corporate Slots." First
paragraph: "Women continued to scale their way to the top jobs at the
biggest companies, even in a sluggish economy that offered fewer chances at
-- Washington Post headline: "Women Rising in Corporate Ranks,
Report Says." First paragraph: "Nancy Pelosi's ascent to the Democratic
Party leadership in the House of Representatives reflects the steady
progress of women in the political world. According to a new report, women
also continue to climb the corporate ladder."
-- Wall Street Journal headline: "Women Are Holding More
Corporate Posts." First paragraph: "Women hold one out of six corporate
officer positions at Fortune 500 companies, or nearly 16 percent, according
to a study by Catalyst, an organization that studies issues relating to
women and business."
Other papers repeated the Associated Press and Knight-Ridder
stories, with headlines trumpeting the good news, such as "Report Shows
Women's Fortunes Rising at Corporations" in the Charlotte Observer, and
"They Are Women, Let's Hear Them Roar" in the Toronto Star.
The Chicago Tribune ran the same Associated Press story as the
Los Angeles Times, with the headline: "'02 Good for Women on Top." But then
things turned grim, and subsequent Chicago Tribune stories turned sour. A
later Trib headline read: "Number of Women in Top Business Ranks Inches Up,"
followed a week later by "Number of High-Ranking Females Rising Slowly."
Same newspaper, same information, decidedly different slant.
This brings us to the New York Times, about which Bernard
Goldberg, in his book "Bias," said, "The (New York) Times is a newspaper
that has taken the liberal side of every important social issue of our time,
which is fine with me. But if you see the New York Times editorial page as
middle of the road, one thing is clear: You don't have a clue."
The New York Times currently, for example, leads the charge to
force the private golf course, Augusta National, to admit a female. Even
though polls show that over 70 percent of women register indifference about
the issue, the New York Times, from three months ago to date, ran 57
articles, columns or editorials about the "controversy." Just by contrast,
the Washington Post ran 33 articles, and the Los Angeles Times 38. Can you
So how did the New York Times, as well as some other papers,
greet the latest report on the tremendous progress of women in corporate
-- New York Times headline: "Number of Women in Upper Ranks
Rises a Bit." First paragraph: "A survey of executive and high-earning
corporate women being published today shows percentage gains so
small as to seem inconsequential
(emphasis added), but for one
thing: They were achieved during a recession, when many businesses were
I told my female assistant about the Times article. She said,
"Who wrote it?"
"Someone named Mary Williams Walsh," I replied.
"Stereotypical women," she huffed, "can't handle the math."
To repeat, my assistant