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For women, slow progress in getting to the executive suite

Women make up about half the work force and have a lower unemployment rate than men, but they still lag far behind the opposite sex when it comes to the top jobs.

A new report from Catalyst finds that women held 14.4 percent of executive officer positions in Fortune 500 companies in 2010. That’s a slight improvement over 2009, when women held 13.5 percent of executive positions.

Women are even less likely to be among the top five earners at their companies. The Catalyst report found that women made up just 7.6 percent of the top earners at Fortune 500 companies. Still, that’s up from 6.3 percent in 2009.

Women are also much less likely to serve on the board of directors of Fortune 500 companies.

Women held 15.7 percent of corporate board seats in 2010, according to Catalyst, up just barely from 15.2 percent in 2009.

Even fewer women are sitting at the head of the board table. The report found that women held just 2.6 percent of board chair positions at Fortune 500 companies, up from 2 percent in 2009.

Catalyst also called out the Fortune 500 companies that have zero female executive officers. They include Apple, Bed Bath & Beyond, Blockbuster and Avis Budget Group.

The companies with the highest percentage of female executive officers included Gap, H&R Block, Limited Brands and TIAA-CREF. Women made up half of the executive suite at each of those companies.

Catalyst is a nonprofit organization that promotes women in business.

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