‘Lifers’ rarer in less-male corporate America

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Posted: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 12:00 am

The face of corporate America is gradually being remade as women and professionals educated abroad enter into the top ranks of the largest corporations, according to a study in the latest Harvard Business Review.

And the career path to the top has also changed over the past 30 years, the research found. Fewer executives are “lifers” — employees who began their careers at the bottom and attained the top corporate levels. And leaders with undergraduate degrees from public universities are now in the majority.

Although senior executive ranks remain dominated by men, women now occupy nearly 18 percent of the top slots at Fortune 100 companies, according to the article, “Who’s Got Those Top Jobs?,” which examined the career trajectories, education levels and diversity among the 1,000 top-tier executives in 2011.

That is a notable change from 1980, when none of the Fortune 100 companies had women in the corner office and is also up from 2001, when 11 percent of the top-ranking jobs were held by women.

The article was based on research by Peter Cappelli, a professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and Monika Hamori, a professor of human resource management at IE Business School in Madrid.

Men educated outside the United States hold about 11 percent of the top positions, a notable increase from the 2 percent in 1980. Over the past 30 years, more multinationals have opened pipelines of managers from their overseas operations to take high-level roles.

“What is striking is that the corporate model in 1980 was that all the companies had lifetime employees and they promoted from within,” Cappelli said. “Now the idea of a corporate career is no longer a standardized concept.”

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