Chief Executive’s 10 Most Valuable CEOs: Where are the Women?

Few people know the most powerful piece in chess – the queen – didn’t exist until 500 years after the game’s creation. Will women executives rise to this status after they’ve conquered the board? Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Philip Morris International CEO Louis Camilleri and MetroPCS CEO Roger Linquist made it to December’s most valuable CEOs list. But there’s something blatantly missing from this roundup – where are the women?

The cold hard truth is this: despite major strides for women in business over the past few years, men still vastly outnumber women in the CEO role. In fact, Catalyst research (October 2011) shows that women currently hold only 3.2 percent of Fortune 500 CEO roles and 3.5 percent of Fortune 1000 roles. And on the S&P 500 (the index used to assemble Chief Executive’s list), only 17 CEOs are women.

Why the large gap? Women have proved time and time again they are highly capable of taking the reigns as successful CEOs. Yet female leaders are still lagging in some major industries – financial and technology to point to a couple glaring examples.

According to Dr. Sasha Galbraith, a management consultant and expert on the topic of executive women hierarchy, there are several assumptions that fuel these inequities in the workplace:

  • Ms. Executive:

    Misunderstanding women’s goals and believing they don’t really want to become senior leaders.

  • Queen Bee:

    Questioning if women are capable of running large corporations.

  • The Balancing Act:

    Assuming that women cannot effectively balance their work and home lives.

  • Mirror theory – Manager = Male:

    Promoting candidates who are similar to other top executives, who are predominately males.

I find it very unsettling that people still believe these myths to be facts. But on a positive note, we as a society are becoming much more aware of these biases. The larger issues have not been solved, but women are continuing to break ceilings, doors and boundaries to stake their claim in the Corner Office.

I’ll be keeping a keen eye on Chief Executive’s 2012 list, which I hope will include women CEOs in their rightful spot of “most valuable” rankings.