More women earn degrees, try business, yet CEO titles lag

Do women make good chief executive officers in the business world?

On one hand, it’s a ridiculous question, and the immediate reaction should be why not.

Women hold other prominent professional positions such as doctors, lawyers and governors, so why wouldn’t they be successful as business leaders?

However, the reality is that women are vastly underrepresented as far as holding CEO titles.

Fortune magazine reports 6.4 percent of Fortune 500 companies have a woman at the helm. In 2016, this number was 4.2 percent.

There are notable women leading companies that were in many ways bastions of maleness in the past. Ginni Rometty holds the top spot at Big Blue, IBM. Phebe Novakovic is the CEO of aerospace and defense contractor General Dynamics and Jacqueline Hinman leads global engineering giant CH2M Hill.


Yet, a woman in the top spot is still a rarity. There are no black women CEOs on the list, one Latina, Geisha Williams at PG&E, and one other person of color, Indra Nooyi at PepsiCo.

If we break down the numbers regarding women and their representation in the population as a whole, it leads to more bewilderment as to why the numbers are so low.

< Women make up 50.8 percent of the U.S. population.

< 60 percent of all undergraduate degrees are awarded to women.

< 60 percent of all master’s degrees are awarded to women.

< 47 percent of all law degrees are awarded to women.

< 48 percent of all medical degrees are awarded to women.

And other statistics demonstrate how women are positioning themselves by earning degrees in business.

< 62 percent of all master’s degrees in marketing and communication are awarded to women.

< 57 percent of all master’s degrees in accounting are awarded to women.

< 55 percent of all master’s degrees in management are awarded to women.

Whether is it called the glass ceiling or attributed to other factors, women are not making it into CEO positions as one might expect.


So are women turning to other areas where they can take the lead and control their business opportunities and future? Maybe.

There has been a surge in business startups by woman millennials and minorities. Women, in a 2016 study by the Kauffman Foundation, make up 40.6 percent of new entrepreneurs.

Will we see the pace of change increasing so that more women can become CEOs?

It is a question that needs more research and thought because the trends do not necessarily say yes.


There’s no question as to whether women make good CEOs. They do, given that the few who have attained those positions have done just as well as their male counterparts.

The larger issue is: Will we see more women given the opportunity to lead?

Marianne Chester is founder and CEO of mEnterprise Solutions LLC, a strategic services consultancy based in Stroudsburg. She can be reached at 570-460-9599 or

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