Susan Ivey finally has some company in the Carolinas 50.
The Reynolds American leader has been the lone woman on the Observer's list of CEOs of the bigger companies in North Carolina and South Carolina since 2005. But this year, for the first time, there are three women on the annual survey, which covers 2007 compensation.
Joining Ivey, who leads the Winston-Salem cigarette maker, are Ronee Hagen of Polymer Group Inc. in Charlotte and Janet Steinmayer with Centerplate Inc. of Spartanburg.
“I think it's fantastic” to have three women on the list, Ivey said. “That's something to celebrate.”
She said there's no reason that number can't grow. Ivey said she encourages women with the aptitude for the job to have the attitude and belief that they can be in those roles and feel comfortable in them.
Ivey became the CEO of Brown & Williamson Tobacco in Kentucky in 2001, then remained leader when the company merged with R.J. Reynolds in 2004.
“Certainly, women in our own company see no barriers in reaching executive roles in our company,” Ivey said.
In fact, a survey by Catalyst, a New York nonprofit that studies women at work, showed that Reynolds American had a higher percentage of female corporate officers than any other Fortune 500 company last year.
But the news wasn't all good for female leaders.
In a recent survey of more than 3,400 U.S. and Canadian companies, The Corporate Library found that the median total compensation for female CEOs equaled only 85 percent of the median for men. And women ran less than 3 percent of the companies in the study, a number the Maine research group called “shockingly low.”
“So you're doing pretty well (in the Carolinas) if three out of 50 are women,” said Paul Hodgson, a senior research associate with the group.
Hagen took over at Polymer in April 2007 after running Sappi Fine Paper North America since 2004. Polymer makes nonwoven fabrics used in disposable diapers and cleaning wipes.
“Given today's challenging economic environment, every company needs highly competent leaders,” Hagen said in a brief e-mail interview. “Companies and boards of directors realize that the only way to ensure that they have access to the best leadership talent available is to open their searches to include ethnically and gender diverse candidates.”
Steinmayer might not be on the list for the Carolinas much longer, however.
Centerplate provides food and related concession services at sports facilities, convention centers and entertainment venues. In September, it agreed into be bought by private equity firm Kohlberg and Co., which has offices in New York and California.