To summarize: Today's executives are younger, more likely to be female, and less likely to have Ivy League educations. They make their way to the executive suite faster than ever before (about four years faster than their counterparts in 1980), and they hold fewer jobs along the way. They spend about five years less in their current organization before being promoted, and are more likely to be hired from the outside.
What's more, the Organization Man, the lifelong corporate employee who worked his way faithfully and slowly up the executive ladder, appears to be headed out the door -- increasingly nudged, apparently, by women. According to Cappelli and Hamori's The Path to the Top: Changes in the Attributes of Corporate Executives 1980 to 2001, not a single woman held a top management job in the Fortune 100 in 1980. In 2001, 11% of the Fortune 100 top executives were women. Compared to men, the women executives are younger (47 vs. 52); move into executive positions faster (21 years vs. 25 years), and are less likely to be lifetime employees (32% vs. 47%).
Knowledge @ Wharton, a newsletter from the University of Pennsylvania's famous B-School, features a brief prepared from an academic study by Peter Cappelli of Wharton and Monika Hamori from the Instituto de Empresa in Madrid examining the changing paths to the top of major (F100) corporations. Not surprisingly these researchers find that the times, challenges and competition that molds corporate action is having an influence on the way corporations find and elevate CxOs.
Some of the other findings presented in the report:
- The top companies in the Fortune 100 were changing and these companies were newer, growing faster and reflected changes in the economy and especially the effects of investment in computers, communications and networks. Fast growing tech, wholesale trade and financial service firms are replacing old guard at the top of the F100.
- Corporate hierarchies are flattening - middle management is gone and those who sit in executive offices have broader responsibilities. Contraction continues at the highest levels while more recently the lower tier executives have seen their numbers increasing.
- With change from manufacturing to a service based economy, different ways of doing business have lead to different opportunities for advancement and career growth. It is likely that younger workers won't just have a number of employers, but a number of different careers before they are done.
- Finance has replaced marketing as the preferred pathway to corporate suites. HR and consulting are also strong.
- The number of CEOs from non-Ivy league schools and the number of CxOs with numerous degrees is increasing. More likely a result of the changing of the guard among the ranks of the top companies combined with expanding number of new opportunities in fast growing firms rather than elite graduates becoming less attractive. The diversity within high corporate ranks is a direct result of these changes.
- Merit matters. Steep learning curves, broader perspectives gained from exposure to multiple employers and the ability to quickly assess and execute are attractive qualities to many firms augmenting their executive ranks. Finding the right CEO has become a strategy in many board rooms.
Daniel Gross weighs in with his interpretations of the study Who Needs Harvard? over at Slate.com. As stated above, I believe that simple rotation among the top firms where 18 of the top 25 company's headquarters are outside the Northeast is more responsible than any change with corporation's perceptions of Ivy Leaguers. And there are more compelling opportunities for elite graduates outside the F100.