The movement to improve gender equality continues to gain momentum as more companies and shareholders push for change and government mandates also legislate new requirements. From corporates to Congress, steady progress is being made. At the same time, gender pay equity and C-suite leadership roles remain elusive for most women—factors that investors are starting to pay more attention to. In this report, J.P. Morgan Research takes a look at the latest developments in the gender balance debate across the private and public sectors.

Gender balance in the boardroom

With the availability of gender-specific data for individual companies still relatively sparse, the percentage of women on corporate boards remains the most commonly used metric to measure gender balance at work. Gender parity on boards is still a way off, but real progress has been made over the past few years. In 2011, just 14.6% of board seats belonged to women, according to company data from the Fortune 1000 list. This figure climbed to 22% in 2018, up from 20.4% in 2017. When looking at board makeup, size matters too—with the largest companies in the U.S. leading by example. The 100 biggest U.S. companies in the Russell 3000 index, a major index tracked by investors, have the highest percentage of women on boards at 25.3%, up from 23.9% in 2017.

Large caps lead in board gender diversification

Gender balance stats.

While female representation on corporate boards has been steadily increasing to a significant level, the same cannot be said of women in the C-suite. In the U.S., just 5% of C-suite seats are occupied by women among Russell 3000 companies, and progress for women gaining CEO seats has been fairly stagnant across regions.

“While progress has been slow, representation for women on corporate boards has improved over time, suggesting a positive impact from inclusion in ESG metrics. In addition, there are also a number of advocacy initiatives in place encouraging firms to bring more women into the C-suite,” said J.P. Morgan U.S. Fixed Income Strategist, Kimberly Harano.

The gender pay gap

Pressure on companies to increase transparency around gender pay equity has continued to build, whether it’s from mandated reporting requirements, industry best practices or shareholder activism. In the U.S., since disclosure of the gender pay gap is still not required at the company level, much of the gender pay gap research is based on census statistics. The Current Population Survey (CPS) is a monthly survey with a sample of 100,000 households, sponsored by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It shows the gap between female and male median hourly earnings rose from 18.2% in 2017 to 18.9% in 2018.

U.S. gender pay gap

Chart showing US gender pay gap.

*Includes all full-time wage and salary workers. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey.

Women on the Move (WOTM) started as an internal, firmwide initiative to empower female employees to grow their careers. In 2018, we decided to expand the program to include female clients and consumers. It currently has three main objectives: expand women-run businesses, improve women’s financial health and empower women’s career growth.

WOTM aims to serve women-owned or women-run businesses at all stages of development, from startups to global enterprises, by providing greater access to capital, networking, expertise and advice. Lending to women-owned businesses is a key priority of the program and thanks to the scale of our firm, we can have a major impact. By the end of 2021, our firm expects to extend $10 billion in credit to women-owned businesses.

JPMorgan Chase is also focused on educating women on managing their money, which in turn helps improve their economic security. This includes helping women grow their assets through banking and investment solutions. In addition, last year, the firm invested $55 million in philanthropic investments globally to help women improve their financial health, gain well-paying jobs and grow their small businesses. We are just getting started and plan to do much more.

With roots in thousands of local communities, we are excited to increase our commitment to the success of women and girls and to help secure an equal future for women in their professional and personal lives.

Samantha Saperstein, Head of Women on the Move, JPMorgan Chase & Co

Outside of the U.S., the U.K. introduced gender pay gap reporting regulations in 2017, applying to all public, private and voluntary sector organizations with more than 250 employees. So far this year, approximately 10% of firms have reported for 2018-2019, but early data shows the average reported pay gap (based on mean hourly pay) shrunk from 14.3% to 12.3%. However, the pay gap increased for many sectors, including financial services and construction, where the average reported difference in the mean hourly rate was 26% and 24.3%, respectively.

The median pay gap is greatly influenced by the representation of women at different levels of an organization and in these fields, there is lower representation of women in executive and other higher-paying roles. The data also revealed the gender pay gap tends to widen with the number of employees. The largest firms in the sample, with greater than 20,000 employees, reported an average difference in mean hourly pay of 16.5%, compared with firms with fewer than 250 employees, which reported an average gap of 9.1%. “A combination of government mandates, shareholder activism and advocacy efforts will likely lead to further progress toward gender balance goals over time,” said J.P. Morgan Fixed Income Strategist, Phoebe White.

“A combination of government mandates, shareholder activism and advocacy efforts will likely lead to further progress toward gender balance goals over time.”

A record in U.S. politics

The greatest strides for women over the past year have arguably occurred in the political arena, with 2018 marked by an unprecedented number of electoral victories for women in the midterm U.S. congressional elections. Following Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 presidential race, a record number of women ran for Congress. In total, 476 women ran for the U.S. House of Representatives and 53 women ran for the U.S. Senate, according to figures tabulated by the Center for American Progress. A record-breaking 131 women were elected to Congress, including 36 freshman women, meaning women now hold 24% of congressional seats according to the non-partisan Center for American Women and Politics.


women elected to Congress


freshman women


of congressional seats held by women

Source: Center for American Women and Politics

This compares to just 10% of congressional seats in 1992, which had been viewed as the last “break-through” year for women in politics—then setting a record, as female congressional representation doubled, compared with the 1988 elections.

Voting patterns also changed in the 2018 midterm elections, with Democrats scoring the highest margin of victory among women voters. There are also clear differences in female representation by political party, with the number of Republican women seated in the House of Representatives now at its lowest level since 1993-94, according to official data.

“2018 was marked by an unprecedented number of electoral victories for women in the midterm U.S. congressional elections. 2020 could bring a record number of female presidential candidates, with five major female candidates who currently serve as members of Congress already declaring their candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination,” said J.P. Morgan Chair of Global Research, Joyce Chang.

But it remains an open question whether having a record number of women in office will result in legislative changes to close the gender pay gap. Discussions surrounding the Paycheck Fairness Act were raised in both chambers in January for the 11th time in the past 20 years. The bill would require employers to report job salaries, promotions and dismissals to the federal government, broken down by gender and race.

JPMorgan Chase’s approach to gender equality

Pursuing gender equality is a top priority for JPMorgan Chase. Here are just some of our initiatives that focus on empowering and advancing our women employees and clients.

By the numbers


percentage of the 256,000 people employed by JPMorgan Chase who are women


share of the JPMorgan Chase Operating Committee who are women



percentage of the firm’s senior leaders who are women



amount that is invested in philanthropic efforts globally to help women improve their financial health, gain well-paying jobs and grow their businesses

Read more about JPMorgan Chase's commitment to gender equality.


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