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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Women in 2008 made no significant gains in winning more top U.S. business jobs, according to a study released on Wednesday, but the head of the study said women are poised to make strides in the year ahead.
The number of women who were board directors, corporate officers or top earners at Fortune 500 companies remained essentially unchanged, said the study by Catalyst, a nonprofit group that promotes opportunities for women in business.
The percentage of companies with women on the board of directors was 15.1 percent this year, compared with 14.8 percent in 2007, Catalyst said.
Also, the percentage of corporate officer positions held by women was 15.7 percent in 2008 and 15.4 percent in 2007, it said. The percentage of top earners in 2008 who were women was 6.2 percent, compared to 6.7 percent in 2007, it said.
The research on the Fortune 500 companies was based on data as of March 31, 2008. The slight changes in the numbers are not considered statistically significant, Catalyst said.
Nevertheless, given the changes in U.S. politics, the future for women in business looks more promising, said Ilene Lang, president and chief executive officer of Catalyst.
"Overall we're expecting to see change next year," Lang said. "When we look at shareholders, decision makers, the general public, they're looking for change.
"What they're basically saying is, 'Don't give us more of the status quo. Get new ideas in there, get some fresh faces,'" she said.
Lang said President-elect Barack Obama's choices for cabinet and other leadership positions, which include women and minorities, former rivals and opponents, bode well for women in the corporate world.
"These are very, very inclusive teams," she said. "I think that can be a role model for leadership in other sectors."
The Catalyst study also noted that minority women -- black, Asian or Latina -- comprised 3.2 percent of company directorships, compared with 3.0 percent in 2007.
Editing by Anthony Boadle