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Women hit glass ceiling at tech firms: study

Women climbing to the top of major telecommunications, media and Internet companies appear to be hitting the same glass ceiling they face at traditional companies, a new study released on Wednesday showed.

Nine per cent of the people on boards of directors at the fast-moving telecom, media and Internet firms are women, while 13 per cent of the top executives are women, according to an analysis done by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

"Even the newest media conglomerates and high tech companies reflect old attitudes in their executive suites," Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the director of the center, said at a news conference.

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The report urged companies and trade organizations to undertake efforts to determine why women are not represented in greater numbers at the top, as well as to offer mentoring opportunities with top female and male executives.

The study showed that of the top seven media and entertainment companies, there were only 13 female executives out of the top 130 positions, with none in the top echelon at Internet and cable giant AOL Time Warner Inc. and one each within the inner circles at News Corp. Ltd. and USA Networks Inc.

The statistics were almost as dismal at the board level at the same media and entertainment companies, with 13 who were women out of 113 total directors on corporate boards, according to the study.

AOL Time Warner had one female board director while USA Networks had two and News Corp. had none, according to the report.

"Women should not have to leap through so many hoops in order to succeed," said Susan Ness, one of five commissioners on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which regulates the telecommunications, radio and television industries. She is one of two women on the FCC.

The numbers were equally low for 17 of the major telecommunications and cable companies, with 28 female executives out of 291 top positions and 23 female board members out of a possible 214 members, according to the study.

For example, SBC Communications Inc., the nation's No. 2 local telephone company, had the most, with six women on its board of 21 and six women out of 19 top executives. AT&T Corp., the nation's biggest cable and long-distance telephone company, had one female board director out of 14 and two female executives out of 20, the study showed.

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On the fast-growing technology side of corporate America, the numbers were slightly better. Sixteen per cent of executives were women at companies like online brokerage AmeriTrade Holding Corp., on-line auctioneer eBay Inc. and Internet search engine Yahoo Inc.

The study found 43 out of 272 executives at Internet companies were women, but far fewer were serving on their corporate boards. Six board members out of 147 at 17 companies were women, according to the study.

The study urged corporations and trade groups to identify training programs that could be used to train more women for top executive slots.

"Future-oriented companies need to bring these same new ideas, innovations, and energy they bring to their product-line and services to recognizing new sources of talent and leadership, Ms. Jamieson said.

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