Why So Few Women CEOs?

Harvard Business Review is the latest organization to weigh in on this question — this week they ranked the leaders of the top 100 performing companies and found that only one of them, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who’s now a candidate for governor of California, is female. Of the top 2,000 CEOs, 29 were women — about 1.5%.

My daughter, who’s in another male-dominated profession, science, says there are probably templates for articles like this — women don’t get enough flexibility for family time, etc. But Harvard offered some interesting specific reasons for why women struggle to make it to the top of companies.

“Women CEOs were nearly twice as likely as men to have been appointed to the job from outside the company — even though our analysis clearly shows that inside-CEO candidates perform better over time, presumably because long-term growth depends on deep industry- and firm-specific knowledge. Do top women have to go outside to move up? Our results suggest women are less likely to emerge as winners in their own companies’ internal CEO tournament.”

Still, there are more women CEOs than there were 10 years ago, despite the fact that when a public company announces a female CEO, the stock still drops.

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