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US News & World Report, Published December 29 2012

Cracking the Glass Ceiling: Women made little progress in 2012

Women made little progress in breaking the glass ceiling in 2012, reports US News & World Report.

Females held only 14.3 percent of executive officer positions at Fortune 500 companies in 2012, up only slightly from 2011, according to 2012 Catalyst Census, a report from nonprofit Catalyst, which promotes women in business.

Women at these companies also held fewer than 1 in 5 board of director positions, at 16.6 percent – reflecting only half a percentage point of growth over 2011. More than one-quarter of Fortune 500 companies had no women executive officers.

Trailblazers like Marissa Mayer took over Yahoo while pregnant, and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg helped the company through its tumultuous IPO. Virginia Rometty became IBM’s CEO and then its chairwoman. Lockheed Martin’s board elected Marillyn Hewson as its next CEO. The Internet scoffed when Mitt Romney told a debate audience that as governor, he looked through “binders full of women” in an effort to promote women in his Massachusetts administration. And former State Department official Anne-Marie Slaughter famously asked in The Atlantic if women can have it all, in an article that became the publication’s most-read piece ever.

“You were hearing about women all the time (in 2012). The assumption is that women are right up there, they’re at parity, equality, and that kind of stuff,” says Ilene Lang, president and CEO of Catalyst. “Then you look at the numbers, and the numbers tell a different story.”

The problem may simply be lots of talk without any action, says one expert, and it makes for problems far below the C-suite level.

“It’s not just about the glass ceiling. There’s a gender gap in terms of wages up and down the economic spectrum and across races,” says Sharon Lerner, a senior fellow at Demos, a left-leaning think tank, and author of The War on Moms, a book on the struggles of American working mothers. “It persists because we’re not doing anything about it. Talking about it is one thing.”