By JUSTIN WOLFERS
Fewer large companies are run by women than by men named John, a sure indicator that the glass ceiling remains firmly in place in corporate America.
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 Bills — combined — outnumber the total number of women, including every women’s name, from Abby to Zara. Thus we score chief executive officers of large firms as having an index score of 4.0.
Our Glass Ceiling Index is inspired by a recent Ernst & Young report, which computed analogous numbers for board directors. That report yielded an index score of 1.03 for directors, meaning that for every one woman, there were 1.03Jameses, Roberts, Johns and Williams — combined — serving on the boards of S.&P. 1500 companies.
Even as this ratio falls short of the score among chief executives, it remains astonishingly high. It also understates the impermeability of the glass ceiling. After all, most companies understand that an all-male board looks bad, and so most of them appoint at least one woman, although only a minority bother to appoint more than one. Far fewer of these large firms — currently one in 25 — are run by a woman serving as C.E.O.
We can also use our index to compare the permeability of the glass ceiling in corporate life to that in the political domain. 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.