Despite more than 30 years of women moving into professional, managerial, and executive positions, very few women have reached the senior ranks of leadership. Although 51% of middle management is female, only 15% of corporate officers in the Fortune 500 are women, and women continue to be sparsely represented in senior leadership positions. Research on this phenomenon has been inconclusive. To further our understanding of women's underrepresentation in senior leadership, the purpose of this study was to determine whether there is a relationship between the financial performance of companies in the Fortune 500 and the number of women in senior leadership positions in these companies. This study examined companies that were in the Fortune 500 each year between 1999 and 2008. Two financial data points for each company, return on equity and total shareholder return, were collected and averaged over the 10-year period. Average return on equity and total shareholder return was expressed in z scores. The z scores were averaged, creating an overall index, sorted from high to low, which reflected financial performance. The list was then divided into quartiles. The number and gender of the corporate officers were obtained for the top and bottom quartiles for each year. Spearman rank-ordered correlations were run to determine whether a relationship existed between the financial performance of Fortune 500 companies and the number of women corporate officers in these companies. The results indicated that there was no correlation between financial performance and the number of women corporate officers. Companies that performed well financially were just as likely to have women corporate officers as were companies that performed poorly. This study contributes to the literature on the gap between parity for women at middle management and the professional level as well as the lack of women in senior leadership. Importantly, this study demonstrated that the gender of corporate officers has no bearing on a company's financial performance.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Women executives -- United States; Leadership in women; Corporations -- United States; Dissertations (EdD) -- Education

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Rosensitto, Michelle