Women remain significantly underrepresented among executive officers at the largest public companies in Silicon Valley, a business zone otherwise known for its diversity in ethnicity and cultures. However, the last two decades “has been a time of progress for women in leadership roles,” according to a new research study from law firm  Fenwick & West LLP.

Just 15.7% of executive officers at the Top 15 Silicon Valley companies were women in 2014. That’s below the 20.9% for S&P 100 companies but nearly 10 percentage points better than in 1996. Among the 150 largest Silicon Valley companies, only 10% were women in 2014. These 150 companies aver 0.9 women directors, compared with 2.6 for S&P 100 companies.

Among the S&P 100 companies, 100% had at least one woman director. The largest segment, 42%, was those with two female directors. It’s a different story in Silicon Valley, where only 62% of the 150 largest companies had even a single female director. The most common number of omen directors was one (42% of those with any women directors).

One reason for the disparity is the significant presence of venture capitalists on the top 150 companies’ boards and the small percentage of such investment professionals who are women. Also, the Fenwick & West study concludes, “nominating committees and board members as a whole often start their search for board candidates by looking in their own networks of contacts (even if a professional search firm is also retained), and smaller companies often do not retain a professional search firm to find board candidates reducing the chance that women will be represented in the candidate pool for some boards due to idiosyncratic network effects.”

Much more is covered in Fenwick & West’s “Gender Diversity in Silicon Valley” report and the complete report can be found here. What’s your opinion? Is it progress if only 15.7% of directors at Silicon Valley’s largest companies are women? Share your opinions on GlassCeiling.com. Step up.

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