Archived: Men Named John Outnumber Women in Key Leadership Positions

By Michael Nam

Justin Wolfers, a Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Michigan, highlighted the lack of women in charge of financial and political institutions with a darkly amusing ratio he calls the Glass Ceiling Index. In his New York Times Upshot column, Wolfers was apparently inspired by metrics provided by a recent EY report and public data to show how firmly in place the glass ceiling still remains.

Among chief executives of S&P 1500 firms, for each woman, there are four men named John, Robert, William or James. We’re calling this ratio the Glass Ceiling Index, and an index value above one means that Jims, Bobs, Jacks and Billscombinedoutnumber the total number of women, including every woman’s name, from Abby to Zara. Thus we score chief executive officers of large firms as having an index score of 4.0.

The aforementioned men named John make up 5.3 percent of S&P 1500 chief executives, compared to the 4.1 percent of all women.

The striking differential shows up in the nation’s political institutions as well.

Turning to Congress, there is a partisan divide in the Glass Ceiling Index. On the Republican side of the Senate, there are as many men named John as there are women. Add in the Senator Roberts, Senator Jameses and Senator Williams, and they outnumber their female colleagues by a ratio of 2.17 to one. The score in the House is slightly less unbalanced, but there are still 1.36 Jims-Bobs-Jacks-Bills for every woman.

Even though Democrats tend to do better than their partisan opponents, Wolfers notes that “the index for Democratic politicians and cabinet members remains more than twice as high as the benchmark for the population as a whole.”

There are 25 women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies (or 5 percent of all Fortune 500 companies), includingVirginia M. RomettyofIBM (No. 23 in the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity). Other Top 50 female CEOs are Christi Shaw of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation (No. 1), Cathy Engelbert of Deloitte (No. 11), as of March 11, and Beth Mooney of KeyCorp (No. 47).

The DiversityInc 25 Noteworthy Companiesinclude two Fortune 500 women CEOsMary T. Barra of General Motors and Ellen J. Kullman of DuPont. Debra L. Reed is CEO of Sempra Energy, one ofDiversityInc’s Top 7 Utilities.

Other female Fortune 500 CEOs are:

Margaret C. Whitman, HP

Indra K. Nooyi, PepsiCo

Marillyn A. Hewson, Lockheed Martin

Safra A. Catz, Oracle

Irene B. Rosenfeld, Mondelez International

Phebe N. Novakovic, General Dynamics

Carol M. Meyrowitz, TJX

Lynn Good, Duke Energy

Ursula M. Burns, Xerox

Deanna M. Mulligan, Guardian Life Insurance

Kimberly Bowers, CST Brands

Barbara Rentler, Ross Stores

Sherilyn S. McCoy, Avon Products

Denise M. Morrison, Campbell Soup

Susan Cameron, Reynolds American

Heather Bresch, Mylan

Ilene S. Gordon, Ingredion

Jacqueline Hinman, CH2M Hill

Kathleen M. Mazzarella, Graybar Electric

Gracia C. Martore, Gannett

Lisa Su, Advanced Micro Devices

Women CEOs/Leadership

Top 50U.S.
Senior Execs29.3%29%

You can also access all our lists

With such numbers, it’s difficult to imagine that such gender inequity can arise from anything other than sexism. As Amanda Marcotte writes for, “By sprinkling a few female faces in the mix, major corporations can deflect accusations of sexism. After all, if some women get through, then it can’t be discrimination, right”

Many of the stumbling blocks for gender equity in the workplace comes from the inability to perceive just how lopsided the numbers can be. The kind of casual sexism that even Warren Buffett has been charged with, disparaging Senator Elizabeth Warren’s demeanor in recent comments, plays a large part in dismissing women’s contributions to companies and politics. An analysis of performance reviews last year at shows that women are far more likely to receive criticism in their reviews compared with men, much of it regarding a woman’s tone or aggressiveness. It begs the question: How aggressive were all the Jims, Bobs, Jacks and Bills in order to achieve their own lofty positions

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