Of the top 25 companies for women, only four fall solidly in the male-dominated technology sector: Hewlett-Packard, SBC Communications, Lucent Technologies and IBM. Charles Schwab, a brokerage firm specializing in online stock trading, also ranks highly.
The full list includes traditional retailers such as the Gap, newspaper behemoths Gannett and Knight Ridder, and Advantica, operator of the El Pollo Loco restaurant chain. The list includes only Fortune 1,000 companies that have at least two women on the board of directors.
Companies with female CEOs and other women among the five most senior executives get "extra credit," according to the rating criteria. The study also tries to gauge the "women-friendliness" of the corporate culture, weighing whether the company offers flexible work schedules or on-site child care.
Other factors that boost a company's score: Is the number of women in management steadily increasing? Does the company sponsor mentorship programs for young women and other programs to prepare women for senior management positions? Does it have financial incentives for managers who promote women into management positions?
"What distinguishes them from many other companies is that their efforts to advance women while promoting a culture that values diversity are long-term commitments," the magazine stated of the top 25 companies. "And the stars of these corporate cultures are truly products of their environment."
The top tech-oriented company was Charles Schwab, the $3.9 billion San Francisco-based investment firm that has become a leader in online financial services. Of the company's 18,083 employees worldwide, 39 percent are women. Roughly one out of three department heads is a woman.
Two of Schwab's five highest-paid executives are women. The two highest-ranking women are Dawn Lepore, vice chairperson, executive vice president and chief information officer, and Linnet Deily, vice chairperson and executive vice president.
With more than 7.4 million active accounts and $961 billion in assets, Schwab branched out in October with a financial Web site for women. And unlike companies that pepper their work forces with short-lived initiatives to increase the ranks of women managers, Schwab is known for its consistency, WorkingWoman.com determined.
"The fast-growing company has built a management team that perfectly reflects its employee pool," the survey enthused. "Schwab requires women in mid-management to get tech training, preparing them for line positions in e-commerce. It has also added a mid-management mentoring program for women."
The second-highest-rated tech company was HP. The $42 billion computer giant employs 49,262 workers in its Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters and in offices around the world, and 32 percent are women. Roughly one out of three department heads is a woman, and two of the top five executives are women--including chairperson, president and CEO Carly Fiorina.
"HP's numbers have gotten a boost from Fiorina," WorkingWoman.com reported. "When she arrived last July, she persuaded several key executive women to help her reorganize the company. Now five of the eight members of HP's executive committee are women. Fiorina's appointment follows HP's strong history of supporting and promoting women."
The top company across all business categories was Avon Products, a New York-based retailer that sold $5.3 billion in beauty products, jewelry and apparel in 1999. Of Avon's 7,058 employees worldwide, 74 percent are women. Nearly half of the company's department heads and board of directors members are women.
Avon CEO Andrea Jung took the helm a year ago and orchestrated a lauded financial turnaround. The stock traded Tuesday afternoon at $41.75, which is 27 percent higher than its price at the beginning of the year. WorkingWoman.com praised Jung for her newest initiative: improving the company's flex-time policies in an effort to lure and retain working mothers.
It's not surprising that HP and Avon fared well in the annual survey. Labor Department statistics indicate that 45 percent of all managerial posts are held by females. But of the nation's 500 largest companies, only HP and Avon have female CEOs. Of the 1,000 largest companies, only six are run by women.