Women from nine British companies have made it on to a list of the 50 most powerful female executives outside America – but they still have a long way to go to catch up with their US counterparts.
The list, published by Forbes business magazine, will be encouraging for those on it, but will do little to remove the impression that, in the British boardroom at least, the glass ceiling is still in place.
Inevitably, top of the Forbes international list – which excludes the US – is Marjorie Scardino, the only women chief executive of a FTSE 100 company. Chief executive of the British publishing group Pearson, she holds sway over 30,000 employees. Her place on the list was secured by the size of the group's turnover – £3.9bn – and by her clout in the wages market; she is rumoured to earn £938,000 a year.
Hot on her heels, at 17, 19, 20 and 21, are Judy Boynton, chief finance officer of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group; Clara Furse, chief executive of the London Stock Exchange; Linda Cook, chief executive officer of Shell Gas & Power; and Val Gooding, chief executive officer of Bupa.
Whereas executives of the British companies are lucky to generate turnovers of up to £4bn, many of the Americans shepherd up to $50bn (£35.2bn) in revenues. In the US, Carly Fiorina, chairman and chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, topped the list for the fourth year running, in spite of the fact that the company suffered badly in the burst of the internet bubble, losing $65bn in market value since last year.
The more recognisable names on the Forbes American list include the chat show host Oprah Winfrey, who comes in at number three – up 12 places on last year. As well as hosting her shows, Ms Winfrey produces films, pushes books and teamed up with Hearst Magazines in America last year to launch O, The Oprah Magazine, described in the industry as the most successful magazine launch in history.
Pattie Sellers of Forbes said that in evaluating power, "we consider the size and importance of a woman's business in the global economy, her clout inside her company and the arc of her career – where she has been and where she is likely to go. When appropriate, we also weigh the woman's influence on mass culture and society. That factor lifts Oprah Winfrey to number three on this year's list''.
Also featuring prominently in America, at 13, is Martha Stewart, whose interiors company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, has reportedly turned her into a billionaire.
Janet Guyon, Fortune's Europe editor at large, who compiled the international list, said two trends stood out. "First, women are gaining power in traditionally male fields," she said.
"Second, at family-run companies, women are not just cashing dividend cheques, they are running the operations."Reuse content