Best Women leaders

August 2, 2016
Of her best women leaders

The California company with the biggest share of women in top jobs isn’t a Silicon Valley tech firm or an L.A. entertainment giant. It’s Williams-Sonoma Inc., the Bay Area home product retailer that includes Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn and West Elm.

According to the annual Study of California Women Business Leaders from UC Davis, 57.1% of the top jobs at Williams-Sonoma are held by women. That’s the highest percentage reported by any company in the 11 years that the university has been conducting the study, according to UC Davis reseach specialist and study author Amanda Kimball.

The report defines “female leadership” as the number of women on each company’s board and among its five highest-paid executives. UC Davis looks at the 400 largest companies in the state by market cap, representing a total of $4.9 trillion in shareholder value. Overall, women hold 12.3% of board sets and highest-paid exec positions at the 400 companies. That’s up from 11.5% last year.

In the top 10 (which actually includes 16 companies, thanks to numerous ties), the Bay Area dominates, with 9 businesses. Industry-wise, pharmaceutical companies are best represented, with five firms in the top ranks.

Ninety-two of the 400 California companies have no women on their boards or among the top-paid execs. Here’s just a sampling of the names on that 0% list: DVR pioneer Tivo, circuit maker Linear Technology, cyber security firm Palo Alto Networks. (Tivo declined to talk to Fortune about its place on the list. Neither Linear Technology nor Palo Alto Networks responded to ‘s request for comment.)

“It’s disappointing, but that’s the case every year, ” says Kimball of companies with no women in upper ranks. “Those are the companies we want to reach.” On the positive side, “it gets harder to point to a household name every year, ” she says, noting that businesses have come under increasing pressure to diversify.

The study also looked the pay difference between the top male and female executives at the 400 companies. The median comp for the highest-paid female executives is $1, 862, 182 vs. $2, 138, 520 for best-paid men. The pay gap flip-flops when you look at just CEOs, however. UC Davis found that the 17 female CEOs on the list have a median comp of $6, 607, 388, while the 382 male CEOs make a median $4, 633, 448.

For the first time, UC Davis partnered with Watermark, a Bay Area group dedicated to putting more women in top roles, to zero in on the gender breakdown in Silicon Valley and the rest of the Bay Area.

The researchers found that 11 Bay Area companies have at least 30% of women in top jobs. State-wide No. 1 William Sonoma tops the Bay Area list as well. The pharmaceutical industry again leads the list, with four companies, followed by tech, with three.

In further evidence that diversity is good for companies’ bottom lines, the median revenue of the 11 firms on the Watermark list is 49% higher than the median revenue of all 223 Bay Area companies examined by UC Davis.

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