illustration of Lois Bowers
Lois Bowers headshot

A recent Pew Research Center analysis of data from the US Census Bureau and other sources, found that women now hold 29% of the CEO and public administrator positions in the United States. 

The center also recently shared that the number of women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies reached an all-time high of 10.6% in 2023; 53 women lead the firms, according to the Fortune 500 list and Catalyst. Also, Pew said, the share of women who serve on the boards of Fortune 500 companies was 30.4% in 2022, up from 9.6% in 1995, according to Catalyst, Deloitte and Heidrick & Struggles.

It all sounds like positive news, and it is, and yet Pew also pointed out that “the share of women in top business leadership positions remains well below their share of the population.”

Some good news, according to a recent Pew survey, is that a majority of the public seems to support women in leadership positions. Fifty-five percent of respondents said they believe that there are too few women in top executive business positions (although this percentage is down from 59% in 2018), and 79% of those respondents believe that there should be an equal number of men and women in leadership roles (additionally, 10% said that it would be ideal if there were more women than men in these roles, and another 10% said that it would be ideal to have more women in the positions than there are now, but still not as many women as men).

Reading all of this news, my mind went back to 2019, when Juniper Communities’ founder and CEO Lynne Katzmann accepted the first McKnight’s Women of Distinction Lifetime Achievement Award and used her acceptance speech in part to call for more women at the highest ranks of organizations.

“Women make up an overwhelming majority of our consumers. They also make up an overwhelming majority of the workforce” in long-term care, she said at the time. “The ranks of CEOs really need to reflect that strong, dynamic group of women that we serve and that provide care and service to the people that are our residents.”

An even more important goal, Katzmann continued, is that company boards have appropriate representation of women.

“Gender-balanced boards are imperative, and gender-balanced boards get results,” she said.

Katzmann pointed to a report for Credit Suisse that found that companies with women directors, compared with those without, had higher growth, higher value and higher return on equity. In addition, she pointed to a study published in 2018 in the Harvard Business Review that “noted that gender-balanced teams achieved greater customer satisfaction and enhanced employee engagement,” she said.

There’s still more work to do, both overall and in senior living, until we see more women at the top. Along the way, we can ensure that women leaders get the recognition they deserve and tell their stories to inspire others to follow in their footsteps. And we can celebrate women at other points in their careers who are striving to make their organizations the best they can be.

Nominations for the sixth annual McKnight’s Women of Distinction awards program are now open. Get details here and make plans now to attend the May 14 awards ceremony and educational sessions in Chicago. It promises to be an exhilarating day where many more worlds of wisdom will be shared.

Lois A. Bowers is the editor of McKnight’s Senior Living. Read her other columns here.