Watermark Index


In 2015, Watermark formally introduced the Watermark Index to honor publicly traded Bay Area-based companies where women hold 30 percent or more of the companies’ governing boards and top-five compensated executive positions.

The intent of the Index is to celebrate companies that support the development of women and ensure equal opportunity in their organizations, particularly at the executive level – and to provide a benchmark for success.

Our inaugural Index was culled from the 2015-16 UC Davis Study of California Women Business Leaders, which explores the presence of women in top-compensated positions and governing board seats in California’s 400 largest public companies. Watermark has partnered with the Graduate School of Management at UC Davis to promote this study since 2005.

For the Index, UC Davis analyzed the 223 largest public companies headquartered in the Bay Area and found that in 11 (4.9 percent) of the companies, women hold 30 percent or more of the top-five compensated executive positions and board seats.

“Silicon Valley, in the heart of the Bay Area, is a global hub of innovation and a top destination for some of the world’s best talent,” says Watermark CEO Marlene Williamson. “Our companies – some of the largest in the world – have the opportunity to lead the rest of the business community by example in advancing gender diversity within the top ranks. The Watermark Index is designed to showcase those already doing so.”

Among the study’s highlights:

  • Williams-Sonoma Inc. holds the top spot in gender diversity in the Bay Area with 57.1 percent, or almost double the 30 percent benchmark. In fact, William-Sonoma has the highest percentage among the largest public companies statewide.
  • Of the 11 companies that make up the inaugural Watermark Index, four are pharmaceutical companies and three are technology companies – both traditionally male-dominated industries.
  • From a revenue standpoint, companies on the Watermark Index outperformed other companies in the region by 49 percent – and companies in the state by 35 percent.

The full list of companies on the Watermark Index includes:

  • Arista Networks, Santa Clara
  • Genomic Health, Redwood City
  • Geron, Menlo Park
  • Intersect ENT, Menlo Park
  • Medivation, San Francisco
  • Restoration Hardware, Corte Madera
  • Simpson Strong-Tie, Pleasanton
  • Wells Fargo, San Francisco
  • Williams-Sonoma Inc., San Francisco
  • Yahoo, Sunnyvale
  • Zendesk, San Francisco

First Republic Bank and HP join the Watermark Index as honorable mentions.

The winners were honored at Watermark’s signature event, the Make Your Mark Awards, in 2015.

Watermark encourages leaders of the other 212 Bay Area companies to take an honest look at their gender diversity makeup to determine areas for improvement and next steps.

“We’d like to see more companies in the Watermark Index,” Williamson says. “Several tech giants, including HP,  Intel and Salesforce, have already publicly acknowledged commitments to advance diversity and equality in the past few months. We applaud these companies’ efforts and encourage leaders of the other Bay Area companies to do the same.”

“This important issue is getting some much-needed attention,” says Graduate School of Management Research Specialist Amanda Kimball, author of the UC Davis study. “I hope the Watermark Index serves as a catalyst for more companies to recognize the importance of gender and racial diversity on leadership teams.”

For companies that want to increase their gender diversity at all levels, Watermark can help companies and employees achieve the right balance for optimal success.

“By partnering with Watermark, companies can help ensure that all employees – especially women – are well-equipped with the skills, knowledge and experience they need to climb the corporate ladder,” says Watermark Board Chair Lynne Born, partner and COO at Seiler. “We work with companies to develop employee engagement programs, such as mentorship and sponsorship programs, and to accelerate the growth of a gender diverse talent pool in-house. And we encourage women to seek out and participate in development programs to gain the skills they need to advance in their careers.”