Fewer Women Run Big Companies Than Men Named John

In many important decision-making areas of American life, women remain vastly outnumbered, and the Glass Ceiling Index shows it.

Comments: 54

  1. These are fascinating findings, Professor Wolfers, and they offer a strong reminder that so much more has to be done on this front, even the figures you show largely reflect 1945-1975 birth years. It will be quite instructive to compare this data to the 1965-1995 birth year data in 2035 (adjusting the male names chosen). That assumes that the age one acquires and maintains "elite power" or an "elite position" in this country will 40-70, independent of gender equality; it may skew younger by then. As for the significant partisan divide by gender in Congress, perhaps we could look to the PPI data published last week, analyzed by Amanda Marcotte of Slate and others, which shows us how different Republican women are not only from Democratic women but Republican men. Specifically, the findings reveal that GOP women identify with strong religious beliefs. Does that make them less likely to run and therefore less likely to be nominated by their party because religion is not what motivates the Republican donor class; it is animated much more by economics. Do these women face the choice of downplaying their religion or risk looking too strange to donors that they need to keep their campaigns afloat? A second reason for the partisan divide might be that GOP female representatives who do *not* strongly identify as religious seem to be inherently distrusted by base voters in their party, particularly when those women work with women from the other political party on anything.

  2. This needs to be fixed, stat. Eliminate democracy.

  3. Why on earth did you invent some silly metric instead of using the far-more-damning simple gender ratio? Or even worse, throw in small sample-sizes like the current Supreme Court?!

  4. Probably because it was funny and attention grabbing

  5. Why not an analysis of the ratio of men to women, regardless of men's names? By narrowing the subset of men only to those with the names in the article will greatly distort the glass ceiling index.

  6. Hard to make the graphs readable, some of the lines would just be too long. Seriously, this is an attention gripping exercise, not a basic proof. The ratio of S&P 1500 company men to women CEOs is given in the article as one to 25.

  7. Maybe women should start their own companies based on their own R&D and then hire and promote whoever they want and quit whining. How 'bout that?!

  8. And how many of these CEOs started the company that they head up??

  9. 1. Who said women were whining?
    2. How many of these CEO's could "started their own companies based on their own R&D?
    3. Clearly you're part of the white men of privilege

  10. They do, unlike almost all of the male CEOs.

  11. Well, shattering the so-called Glass Ceiling won't do anything for the majority of women, any more than the majority of men can take solace from the fact that they have a .0001% chance of making the big time. Plus, there is every reason to believe that female executives will not, as those with rose-tinted spectacles try to believe, lend other women a helping hand on their way up. Quite the opposite, in fact.

  12. ???You think women won't lend a helping hand, perhaps will instead step on the hand trying to get up the ladder? And your evidence, aside from cultural bias, is?

  13. White male privilege is widespread and embraced by almost everyone in this society including most women. Many women get their revenge at the divorce court but for minorities there is little hope for change.

  14. Thanks for helping me choose my future sons' names!

  15. This media obsession with female CEOs is of no concern to 99.99% of women.

  16. Thanks for mansplaining to us women what we are and aren't concerned about. Why, without you here to tell us what we think, we'd all just be lost.

  17. how would you know this?

  18. guess i'm the .01% then. It matters when you look in a room and you see no women.

  19. Actually, there's probably another lesson here. The fact CEOs all have these boring names points to the role of CEOs in society: conformity. These people are not geniuses or especially talented. They're predictable people who can be counted on to not upset the boat and continue the neoliberal march towards turning everything over to the private sector and the ruling class.

    Let's celebrate the fact women don't want to become CEOs, because CEOs are psychopathic garbage!

  20. Women DO want to be CEOs, and CEOs are not inherently "psychopathic garbage", conformity of names notwithstanding,

  21. All that is clear from your post is that you haven't known any talented CEOs. But failing to know them does not mean they don't exist.

  22. Yes, but people -- men included -- do not have so much power that they can choose the names they are given at birth.

  23. Over 15% of all boys born in the United States in the 1950s were named James, Robert, John, or William.

    (Indee, three of those four names were at the top of the Social Security Agency's male baby name popularity list for that decade, and an interesting -- if unanswered -- question is why the author chose to swap out "Michael" (2d most popular) for William (6th most popular).)


    As most present-day CEOS were born in the 1950s (and are now 55-65 years old) it is little wonder that those names are common among CEOs (and Senators, etc.)

    This "index" is going to be heavily influenced by changes in taste in baby naming.

    By the 1980s, none of James, Robert, John, or William was a top-5 name.


    But perhaps it wasn't the authors' point to propose a useful tool for measuring the existence of the "Glass Ceiling."

  24. We can tease out what proportion of the CEOs had those names from the statistics here. If there were 4 JRJW's to every women and 25 men to every women then there were 4 JRJW's to 25 total men amongst CEOs, or 16%, a good match for your 15% of male baby names.

    I think the point - first in the E&Y statistics on board members and then here - was exactly to use the popular male names of that era.

  25. You forgot to point out that men with the names James, John, Michael, and Robert win the lottery more often than others.

  26. I wonder if that's true. You think those names are represented proportionally among lottery ticket buyers and/or winners?

  27. like blacks women have become a subset to the Democratic party, women will vote for Hillary just because she's a women as blacks voted for Obama for the same reason. These articles only help propagate that. They never talk about how many women as opposed to men interview for such jobs, Or seek such jobs. Just that the United States should employ an equal number of people regardless of qualifications or education. Like Obama and the left say's "it's a matter of equality".

  28. Didn't Sheryl Sandberg make this comparison in "Lean In" (more than women in...) She deserves a footnote here.

  29. Supposed to say "more (man's name) than women in..."

  30. "Sure indicator that the glass ceiling remains firmly in place"

    Hang on. Says who, you the writer? If you show A is true, the onus is on you to ALSO show that A implies B, and you haven't done that. Just because there are few women at the top, does not imply glass ceiling (which itself implies discrimination). Women drop out of the potential pool of candidates for leadership for many reasons. You have not provided evidence that discrimination is one of those reasons, therefore you have undermined the point you were trying to make.

  31. Glass ceiling has for many of us has come to mean the plain fact that very few women are advancing to the highest levels of large corporations and, to a lesser extent government. It does not imply overt discrimination. You are correct that this particular article does not tease out the causes. There is a great body of literature addressing that issue. This is merely an interesting way to illustrate the disparity.

  32. The term "glass ceiling", does carry the implication of discrimination, as though it was an external barrier that women needed to break through. As you mention, other literature does indeed explain why the pool of female leaders is quite small. I'm also quite sure the studies do not blame discrimination for this. So, are we even able to define the problem then? That there is no equal outcome? Would you really expect to see a 50:50 split in anything?

  33. Caezar, Indeed many of the studies do blame discrimination at least in part. Usually, but not always, it is not blatant. Often it is described by those discriminating in terms such as "comfort level".

  34. Although I do support the principle that well-qualified women should be competing on a level playing field with their male counterparts for top-level corporate positions, I can't help wondering if good old-fashioned male aggressiveness is playing a part in the so-called "glass ceiling" effect. If men tend to behave more aggressively than women, which I suspect is generally true despite many obvious exceptions, and if aggressiveness is an effective aid to getting ahead in this dog-eat-dog world, which I also suspect is generally true, then it follows that it is easier for men to ascend the corporate ladder because of their more aggressive goal-seeking behavior—not necessarily because of their gender per se, and not necessarily because of their superior qualifications. Needless to say, it would be a better world if aggressiveness were not so highly-prized (nor so amply rewarded) in modern society, but I certainly don't expect this aspect of the human condition to change anytime soon.

  35. It's worse than that. Many studies have shown that aggressiveness is rewarded in men by most (not all) evaluators of either sex and seen as an undesirable behavior in women. So she's damned if she's aggressive and also if she's not if her competition is male.
    PS. Liked your rejoinder to288boss immediately above.

  36. Here's a paradox for my friends on the left: Many of you have pined on these pages for economic growth we had in the days of high marginal tax rates and union enrollment covering a third of all workers. Back then, though, we also had near zero women CEOs. In other words, by your own reckoning, the economy has gotten worse since more women have become CEOs. QED

  37. Silly false logic. The fact that factor A happens to coincide with factor B does not by itself establish a causal relationship between them. Any college freshman with half a brain understands this.

  38. Ha. Your indestructible logic made me laugh. Cant argue with it though.

  39. Right. And you just made my point. And nobody probably feels worse about that than Prof. K.

  40. According to the Department of Labor, women account for about 52 percent of all workers in the high-paying management, professional and related occupations. There's a pool of potential CEOs -- but Boards continue to select, predominantly, white men. And white men continue to get their undies in a wad whenever someone points out an obvious contributor to the status quo -- white, male privilege.

  41. This is the snarkiest article I have ever read in the New York Times. I hope the authors are as self satisfied as I am turned off.

  42. Any substantive objection? Some things deserve snark.

  43. I had a classmate who claimed she quit engineering because there were more Daves than women.

  44. Surely more women than men named Juan.

  45. Or Giovanni.
    Or my name, Giacinto.

  46. Why not just make it the ratio of men to women? You know, the actual number in which we're interested?

  47. So I should have named one of my daughters John?

  48. Well obviously since females are graduating with 60-65% of the Bachelor degrees, it's obviously discrimination if 60-65% of women are not CEO'S the day after graduation. If not then obviously we need affirmative action to get more women in the top seats. We know girls are vastly superior than boys on skills tests in early school now, and yet these women keep having babies and leave the workforce when they are older! Damm patriarchy with its sexist expectations. The diversity value of having a CEO with a name other than John is obviously worth discriminating against men (affirmative action).

    (/sarcasm off) So after 40 years of discrimination to give (mostly white) women the upper hand over men, what have we gained? Are there those who believe we need another 40? I know that as long as intentional discrimination that benefits women (affirmative action) exists, there are legitimate reasons to be wary of the broader female class. Our society has shown we can maturely handle discussion on how Affirmative action among the Black population appears overall to have caused harm, including loss of cross-racial solidarity. Perhaps it's time to talk about the same for women.

  49. John is the second most popular name in the world.

    Muhammad is the most popular name in the world.

  50. Explain to me again why any female American would vote Republican?

  51. Crime - violence against women, which runs rampant wherever there is a Democrat majority, though Republican majority males are some of the most philosophically misogynist. Put the two together and one can see what females are actually up against in the world's so-called most advanced nation. The salient question is why would any female American vote Republican or Democrat?

  52. Corporate cultures, not just education, are a big reason behind the low number of women in high tech. This is the exact reason why some companies try to create a different dynamic, because not only is diversity okay, it actually helps you create a better product. It's unfortunate the more businesses haven't realized that yet because they are only holding themselves back.

  53. Also interesting is the old-fashioned commonness of the CEO names. These names dropped from the most popular lists of American baby names some time ago. But these senior achievers seem to have had traditionally minded parents. Does that tell us anything?

  54. Some insightful commentors are pointing out that James, Robert, John, and William are very common names. Yes, for White Males.