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Secret Billionaires: The Executive Power Gap Revealed

Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates are household names, yet their female counterparts are not. While this exemplifies gender inequality across business and media, these women’s financial profiles show a greater, persistent problem around gender and power - of the top executives at S&P 500 companies women only control about 1% of the value of shares held among fellow leaders.

We know about the efforts to get women on boards and policies to improve gender equality within big businesses globally, but the question that people within every sector need to be asking is: Who holds the real power in the biggest organisations?

The Female Lead have partnered with data science company ExecuShe to raise the profiles of some of the world’s most financially powerful women and to find out what their profiles tell us about power and equality.

These women have been researched and tracked by ExecuShe or the ExecuShe Report who researched all the S&P records to find the richest and most powerful women on a global scale. ExecuShe gather its data from three sources: U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings, annual reports, and company websites who have produced a list of the biggest female executive shareholders within the S&P 500. But when we look at these women alongside their counterparts, you can see a startling discrepancy between how much they control in terms of shares.

The stark reality that the data reveals is a shocking story about who still has almost all of the power in business - because it is ownership of shares that shapes business control.

This power gap appears despite the progress we have seen in recent years, with some of the top US firms, including Citigroup Inc., General Motor Company and Oracle Corporation bringing women into chief executive roles.

Edwina Dunn, Founder of The Female Lead said of the findings:

“What this list shows are two big problems. First, that women at the highest level are not getting the recognition that men receive. The Female Lead’s mission addresses this problem by highlighting incredible women’s hard-won success. The second problem we see is the revelation that while these women are rich and successful there is a power gap with an overwhelming 292 companies in the S&P 500 having less than 10% of the share value in female hands. This matters because if we don’t have the shares, we don’t have a say. Even now the gender pay gap and power gap goes right to the top of business.”

While these findings relate to S&P 500 executives at the top of their careers it is an important revelation for all women because these kinds of gender inequalities trickle down into every income bracket.

Execushe’s new research is an important step in raising awareness about this previously unquantified power gap with far-reaching implications throughout businesses.

The Female Lead are also playing their part in making sure that the women holding the power are known. For too long the achievements of women have been unacknowledged and it is revealing those stories and naming these remarkable women that is at the heart of our campaign.

Meet the top female executive shareholders within the S&P 500:

Jayshree Ullal, President and CEO, Arista Networks

61-year-old Jayshree Ullal is the President and CEO of Arista Networks, a computer networking firm. Her shares have a market value of just under $1 billion. Astoundingly, even though Ullal ranks top of the gender share list for women shareholders, she ranks 34th in the list for men and women. She also is the only woman in the top 70.

Born in London and raised in India, Ullal has been listed on the Forbes list of America's richest self-made women. While the employability quotient remains unequal in STEM careers, Ullal is amongst the few women to have made it big in this world. Since the time Jayshree joined as the CEO and president of the then newly launched Arista Networks in 2008, she has nurtured the organisation into a global leader in networking technology.

Jayshree Ullal has said, “You have to lead by example. 30% of my senior leadership are women, 30% of my board of directors are women, however 30% of my engineering staff are not yet women.” “It is a long-term journey, because it starts with awareness and wanting our daughters, our nieces and our future generation of women to participate in tech and finance… building confidence in women that they’re just as good in tech is a process that starts in middle school.”

Sheryl Sandberg, former CEO of Facebook now Meta

Sheryl Sandberg served as the chief operating officer of Facebook, now Meta, since 2008 and stepped down in 2022, but will continue to serve on the board of directors. Sandberg announced she would step down to focus on her philanthropic work.

As COO, Sandberg positioned Facebook as a platform for small business advertising, helping increase ad revenue by 37% during 2021, to nearly $115 billion. Sandberg was recruited as Facebook’s first COO in 2008 where she created an advertising strategy that allowed the company to become profitable.

Sandberg became an outspoken advocate for women to be more aggressive in seeking success in the business world. She often pointed out that, despite the gains women had achieved through feminism, business executives were still predominately male, and women needed to close “the ambition gap.”

Lisa Su, President, CEO and Chair, Advanced Micro Devices

52-year-old Lisa Su is a Taiwanese-American business executive and electrical engineer, President and CEO and chair of Advanced Micro Devices. Her shares have a market value of around $215 million.

Similar to Jayshree Ullal, Dr. Su made her fortune through her presence in the STEM world. She remarkably worked her way up to be a CEO in the Semiconductor industry, which is the weakest industry on gender diversity by headcount within the SP&500 companies.

In February 2022, Dr. Su gave a multi-year grant to the Global Semiconductor Alliance’s (GSA) Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI). She said: ““Ensuring we have a diverse workforce capable of enabling this is increasingly becoming a challenge. I am honoured to have the opportunity to support the GSA WLI through this grant.”

Ruth Porat, SVP and CFO, Alphabet

Ruth Porat is a regular on Fortune’s and Forbe’s powerful women lists, as well as featuring in How Powerful Women Lead.

She was a pivotal member of Morgan Stanley, saving Amazon from financial collapse in the millennium. Since joining Alphabet as CFO in 2015, she has increased Google’s share price through corporate restructuring. Her net worth is believed to be $250 million.

Phebe Novakovic, Chairman and CEO, General Dynamics Corp

Phebe Novakovic is a successful self-made American Businesswoman, who became president of General Dynamics in 2013, with just 12 years at the firm. As a daughter of an air force officer and a former intelligence officer, General Dynamics - a global aerospace and defence company - is close to her heart. She strongly believes in having a good corporate ethos through transparency, honesty and trust. Her net worth is close to $290 million.

Amy Hood, Executive Vice President and CFO, Microsoft

Amy Hood joined Microsoft in 2002 and through strategic operations has revolutionised Microsoft into the digital age of today such as the acquisition of LinkedIn. She is thought to own over 445,000 units of Microsoft stock with a net worth of $207 million at just 51 years old.

Jennifer Johnson, President and CEO, Franklin Resources

At 14, Jennifer Johnson started working in the mailroom of her family business, of which she is now CEO. She is the only one of 7 who joined her father at Franklin Resources. She is a keen advocate for data science to improve efficiency and currently owns 1.8 million units of Franklin Resources with a net worth of over $40 million.

Saria Tseng, Vice President of Strategic Corporate Development and General Counsel, Monolithic Power Systems

Saria Tsen has served as the VP of Strategic Corporate Development and General Counsel since 2009 and is the youngest executive at the firm, owning over 270,000 units of Monolithic shares.

Colette Kress, Executive Vice President and CFO, Nvidia Corp

Colette Kress is 53 and with just 25 years in finance was appointed to Executive Vice President of Nvidia. She has always been a powerhouse in finance, where she previously served as Senior Vice President and CFO of departments within both Microsoft and Cisco. She currently owns 133,862 units of NVIDIA with an estimated net worth of $70 million.

Adena Friedman, President and CEO, Nasdaq

Adena Friedman is the highest-paid executive at Nasdaq, with her net worth estimated between $100-120 million. She joined Nasdaq in 1993, leaving to become MD and CFO of the Carlyle Group. She was appointed President and CEO in 2017 after her return to Nasdaq in 2014, with her aim to make investing accessible through data insights.

About ExecuShe

As the world’s first live gender data space, ExecuShe harnesses the power of data science to track weekly progress and deliver insights on gender (in)equality within major indices across 50+ countries.

Beyond measuring Gender Diversity as the presence of women at the top executive table (by Headcount), ExecuShe also fosters Gender Equality by approaching the ‘Gender Power Gap’ through Gender Share (by Ownership).

All ExecuShe measurements can be continuously tested for financial materiality, and if requested, customised accordingly to ensure that Real Impact Outcomes (RIOs) are aligned with Returns on Investment (ROIs).

By closing the gender data gap, ExecuShe’s goal is to increase the representation of women where it matters, and to empower a stronger female voice.

Equality starts with transparency!


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