Becoming CEO Is More Rigorous Process For Women Than for Men, Research Finds

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By Genevieve Douglas

Nov. 24 — Women are held to a higher standard than men in attaining the position of chief executive officer at Fortune 500 companies, according to new research from the American Management Association.

According to “Women Fortune 500 CEOs—Held to Higher Standards,” female CEOs:

• have better academic credentials than their male counterparts;

• typically have more work and life experience when initially appointed; and

• are more likely to have worked their way up the career ladder internally, as opposed to coming from outside the company.


“When you looked at all these factors for female Fortune 500 CEOs versus male CEOs, on almost every dimension the women were always held to a higher standard,” Jeremey Donovan, chief marketing officer for the AMA and author of the study, told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 20.

Moreover, the proportion of women Fortune 500 CEOs is only 4.8 percent while women make up 47.5 percent of the overall labor force, according to the AMA report.

According to Donovan, to help remedy the disparities, employers need to first be aware of the problem, because “at the micro-level you don’t always see it.”

Employers should do audits of their organizations to see if the compensation practices and composition of people at different levels makes sense, he said.

Donovan also recommended that employers implement or improve their employee mentoring programs. “All employees need mentors, and women just as much, so having a program in place can be very beneficial,” he said.

Donovan further advised that companies implement flexible work arrangements to allow women to care for their families while allowing them to progress within the company. Women bear much more of the child care responsibilities, which can be a detriment to their careers, he said, adding, “Taking care of your kids should not be considered shirking work responsibilities.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Genevieve Douglas in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Simon Nadel at

The study is available at