The Private Sector: Time to spread the fortune

For Pittsburgh to move ahead, the annual list of area's top-paid executives needs to shed its theme of white men in suits

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I have been thinking a lot about the Fortunate 50, the Post-Gazette's annual ranking of the region's 50 highest-paid executives, since it appeared a week ago Sunday.


Check out the Post-Gazette's study of local women in the region's executive ranks in our Top 50 in Business report.


You may have noticed that while last year there were three women on the list, this year there was only one woman and no people of color. What can we learn from such a list about the economic health, diversity and vitality of our region? Why have the list's demographics hardly changed at all over the last 100 years? When will they change, and what do we have to do to make it happen?

This list and its exclusive membership should concern all of us not just because the people on the list make more money in one year than most of us will earn in our lifetimes, but rather because these individuals lead the major employers, public utilities, economic development agencies, and arts organizations in town. Because of their status as corporate leaders, they are the individuals most likely to be recruited to lead economic development boards such as the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, or major arts institutions such as the Pittsburgh Symphony.

This list is an articulation of the people who have power and influence over the health and well-being of our communities. And year after year, that list is nearly exclusively white and male, even though our communities are not.

This year's list is just another illustration of a continuing problem for women in this region -- not enough are in positions of authority, in positions to earn as much as men or in positions to change things. The Post-Gazette's recent Top 50 businesses report, Women at the Helm, articulated that only 9 percent of the board seats and 9.8 percent of the top executive positions at the region's publicly traded companies are held by women, even though women comprise 51 percent of the region's labor force. When it comes to women, fair wages and decreasing our region's gender wage gap, our city trends are going in the wrong direction, whether it be pay at the bottom or the top.

So, what can we do about it? In the spirit of sharing some inspiration, I want to present us with some challenges for the next year. First, to those on the Fortunate 50 list, I challenge you to think about how we can get more women and people of color on that list next year.

You are in positions of great leadership and authority -- and you could truly make change happen. Mentor a woman in your company who you think should be on the list; encourage your company to be a leader in developing competitive compensation packages to recruit and retain executive women and people of color; give a deserved raise to the female executives on your staff and defend and promote them to your boards. Convene other corporate leaders and challenge them to do so as well. Take this on as a challenge, to share your fortune by empowering others in the next year.

And to those who are not on the list, I challenge you, too. Think of this list as a map for the future. Contact one of the Fortunate 50 and ask him to become your mentor. If you are a senior executive at one of these companies -- and you see someone junior to you on the list -- speak up, challenge your board, articulate your value to the company. Here is a wonderful opportunity for your company to fairly reward your excellent work and demonstrate to the community that it is a trailblazer, a leader in promoting fairness and inclusion.

Pittsburgh is a city known for innovation, a city that built empires out of coal and riches from immigrants' dreams, a city where people of modest origins were able to work hard and prosper.

We can be that kind of city again. But it will take all of us challenging ourselves to work harder to move to the next level.

For some of us, that will mean demanding more stock options -- for others a, living wage, and for still others, it will mean giving someone who looks different than the usual suspects on the Fortunate 50 some advice and counsel on how to get there.

When next year's list comes out, will it be different? And what will you have done to help make that happen?

Heather Arnet is executive director of The Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania and can be reached at .


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