The gap at the top

By Marco Lagi | November 18, 2016

The results of the 2016 US Presidential election suggest that the glass ceiling for women in politics remains unshattered. This reminded me of an interesting pattern that the Kemvi Engine recently found in the historical win/loss data of one of our enterprise customers. This customer tended to close deals with companies that have a higher than average ratio of female executives. This sparked the question: what is the gender distribution among executive titles and sectors? Does a woman have more chances to become a CEO in Finance or a COO in Technology?

The data

Company websites are a rich source of information. Products, pricing, industry, messaging, vision, openings, news, events… and, of course, executive management. By collecting and structuring all of the above, the questions we just asked become easy to answer even on a web scale.

In order to extract the gender of the executive, we used Jörg Michael’s impressive C library, which includes a highly curated database of 40,000 names and the ability to specify the country of origin. For this experiment, we’ll look at the names of about 900,000 managers in the US, across all industries and company sizes. We will focus on private companies since it’s harder to find statistics on those.

The gender gap

Not surprisingly, the number of women at the top is abysmally low. Only 15.2% of the executives in our database have a female first name, in agreement with recent estimates for just the S&P500 companies.

We reconcile the different ways a title can be named: e.g. “CEO”, “Chief Executive Officer”, “Managing Director” etc. all point to the same title. Also, if an executive has two roles, both will be counted. Here’s an infographic that breaks it down by title and by industry:

In the end, the pattern described at the beginning of this post is due to the fact that our customer’s typical buyer is in Healthcare, which has a higher-than-average female executive workforce.