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There Are More CEOs Named John Than There Are Female CEOs


Data and statistics tell us a lot about our world. The trouble is, sometimes numbers don’t drive a point home the way, say, a narrative can. Sometimes, it takes a different kind of study to illuminate an issue in a way that resonates for people.

glass ceiling

(Photo Credit: SqueakyMarmot/Flickr)

For example, when we hear that 14.6 percent of CEOs are women, we might think, “Huh. Yup, that’s still pretty low.” But, then comes this study.

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The New York Times confirmed that the glass ceiling is firmly in place earlier this month with something that helped us see the data in a new, (and a newly disturbing), way. Here’s what you need to know.

Fewer companies are run by women than by men named John.

…oh, and David too. This graph breaks it down.

5.3 percent of CEOs are named John. 4.5 percent are named David. Next, all women A-Z — 4.1 percent. Followed by Robert, with 3.9 percent, and so on.

That hits home a little differently doesn’t it?

They also created something called the Glass Ceiling Index. This breaks the data down even further.

The Glass Ceiling Index is the ratio of the number of men named James, Robert, John, or William to the total number of women. So, for CEOs for example, there are four times as many men named James, Robert, John, or William than all women, so their Glass Ceiling Index score is 4.00. Here’s how some other leadership positions break down.

Ratio of the number of men named James, Robert, John, or William to the number of women. Chief executive officers – 4.00. Senate Republicans – 2.17. House Republicans – 1.36. Professors of economics – 1.12. Corporate boards – 1.03. House Democrats – .31. Senate Democrats – .29.

Putting it all together, we can use the Index to examine the degree of permeability of each glass ceiling, from corporate life to politics.

You think congress is bad? Wait until you hear this.

As we study the G.C.I. closely, there are so many ideas and comparisons to ponder. For example, the partisan divide in congress. Clearly, female Republican leaders are scarcer than Dems. But, what about the presidency?

“The United States, which has never had a female president, has had six named James, five named John and four named William. Thus, even if Hillary Clinton were to be elected, the Glass Ceiling Index would be 15.”

There is something really interesting, (maybe even fun in an awful kind of way), about this study. Although the Glass Ceiling Index is clearly an imperfect measurement tool, it sheds some light on an important truth about the number of women in high leadership/decision making roles. It helps us see it, and understand the problem, a little differently.

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What did you learn from the Glass Ceiling Index? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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