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Published 21 March 2013 08:00, Updated 21 March 2013 10:36
Mark Zuckerberg’s top place on the Glassdoor 50 Most Popular CEOs list shows it’s more about popularity than results. Photo: AFP
The most worrying thing about Glassdoor’s 50 most popular CEOs list is not the fact that Mark Zuckerberg takes top spot. It is that there is only one woman on it and she doesn’t appear until almost the end.
CEO and president of lingerie company Victoria’s Secret, Sharen Turney, is in 42nd place, with 82 per cent of employees on the Glassdoor reviewing site approving of the way she is leading the company.
Turney is one of the highest paid women in the United States ($US9.4 million in 2011) and the company has reportedly broken sales records every quarter for the past three years.
But making the Glassdoor list is not about profits (otherwise, why would Zuckerberg be there?), it is a popularity contest.
Zuckerberg tied with Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe of SAP with a 99 per cent approval rating. Facebook’s stock price is down about 30 per cent since its IPO in May 2012.
According to a Glassdoor spokesman, the list reflects employees’ confidence in leadership.
“Rather, it indicates employees’ belief that the company is being led in the right direction, that the CEO has a clear vision of the future and that the vision and plan to achieve it are clearly communicated. It also suggests a general view that the CEO is a good motivator, personal, approachable and accessible”, according to a report on Bloomberg Businessweek.
Hewlett-Packard CEO, Meg Whitman, was judged the ninth-best CEO in the world by the Harvard Business Review earlier this year, for her 10 years at eBay, but she fell off the Glassdoor popularity list with a 79 per cent approval rating.
The authors of the HBR study, Herminia Ibarra and Morten Hansen, said that when they studied the world’s 2000 top-performing companies, only 29 (1.5 per cent) had women as CEOs.
“One notable difference between the men and women CEOs on our list suggests that women still aren’t treated as equals to men when it comes to high stakes positions: Women CEOs were nearly twice as likely as men to have been appointed to the job from outside the company – even though our analysis clearly shows that inside-CEO candidates perform better over time, presumably because long-term growth depends on deep industry- and firm-specific knowledge,” they write.
“Do top women have to go outside to move up? Our results suggest women are less likely to emerge as winners in their own companies’ internal CEO tournament.”
So, we know that there are fewer women at the top of big companies, but the Glassdoor list is about perception, not the performance of the company.
Assistant Professor of Political Science at Texas Tech University, Gregg Murray, looks to evolutionary psychology for an explanation of people’s preference for male leaders.
“Our ancestors who selected allies who were physically imposing were more likely to survive and reproduce. This is because potential opponents easily noticed the physical formidability of the ally and realised the increased costs and danger of a physical confrontation,” he writes in Psychology Today .
“... people tend to prefer more dominant leaders when threat is greater. This is consistent with research showing that individuals with greater physical stature are more likely to be perceived as capable and competent.”
So, basically, especially in tough times, women just don’t look like leaders.