Do men make better CEOs than women?

In my last article, Women hate being CEOs – and they suck at it, the 20 top women CEOs from the class of 2012 scored a flat zero after 5 years – half had been terminated and the survivors all tanked their company’s financial rankings. Should I have reviewed the results of gentlemen CEOs for the sake of comparison?

My answer then was this:

Should I have reviewed the success of the other, male-run companies? Maybe, when the day comes when a woman CEO actually improves her company’s ranking, I will think about it.

This remains my stance – the failure of women CEOs is so pervasive – and remember, I reviewed ALL of them in the Fortune 500 – that reviewing gentlemen CEOs should be moot. Still, a couple of folks leaving comments seemed interested in how the lads did. So, as I am your most loyal and humble servant, I will overcome my incredulity at this question and take a measuring peek under the kilts.

Exhaustively reviewing the five year run of 480 gentlemen CEOs of 2012 seems excessive to me so I will pick 20 of these men to compare to the 20 women. My selection criterion is as follows: the men must be CEO of the next highest ranked company on the Fortune 500 compared to a matching woman CEO. For example, since Meg Whitman of  Hewlett-Packard was ranked #10 in 2012, I will arbitrarily select company #9, Ford Motor, whose CEO was Alan Mulally in 2012. He retired in 2014, which, despite his distinguished career, I will count as a fail, exactly as I did for the lady CEOs who were terminated.

By picking the one-rank-up guys I am necessarily weighting things in favor of the women – the men’s companies have further to fall, and less room to improve in rank. Furthermore, this method guarantees that the collapse of all the women CEOs does not further improve the rank of the man already ranked on top of her. In the case of back-to-back women CEO companies I will jump 2 ranks or as needed to find the closest gentleman-run company.

For surviving gentlemen CEOs I will also count the number who improved their company’s ranking as I did for the women. As a bonus, I will compute the typical gain/loss in the rankings for each gender class.

First, a reminder of the superlative sirens and more analysis of their decimated rankings:

Surviving Women CEOs 2012-2017

  • 10. Meg Whitman – Hewlett-Packard, dropped to 20th in 2016. (minus 10)
  • 19. Ginni Rometty – IBM, dropped to 31 (minus 12)
  • 28. Patricia Woertz – Archer Daniels Midland
  • 41. Indra Nooyi – PepsiCo, dropped to 44.(minus 3)
  • 45. Angela Braly – WellPoint (resigned from shareholder criticism)
  • 50. Irene Rosenfeld – was Kraft Foods, now Mondelez International, Inc., dropped to 94.(minus 44)
  • 72. Ellen Kullman – DuPont
  • 125. Carol Meyrowitz – TJX
  • 127. Ursula Burns – Xerox
  • 234. Sheri McCoy – Avon Products
  • 250. Deanna Mulligan – Guardian Life Ins. Of America
  • 266. Debra Reed – Sempra Energy, dropped to 279. (minus 13)
  • 334. Denise Morrison – Campbell Soup, dropped to 337. (minus 3)
  • 390. Ilene Gordon – Ingredion
  • 396. Heather Bresch – Mylan, no longer listed here.  Deserted the US.  (I am counting this as plus/minus 0 for being delisted.)
  • 451. Kathleen Mazzarella – Graybar Electric
  • 464. Maggie Wilderotter – Frontier Communications
  • 465. Gracia Martore – Gannett, dropped to 752. (minus 287)
  • 483. Marissa Mayer – Yahoo, dropped to 513. (minus 30)
  • 499. Beth Mooney – Key Corp, dropped to 540. (minus 41)

The total ratings drop (adjusted for the delisting of Mylan) is 10+12+3+44+13+3+0+287+30+41 = 443. This makes the mean rankings loss for women CEOs equal to about 44 each over the 5 years, or about 9 ranking points per company per year. The median loss was 12.5 ranking points per company over the 5 years.

Constructing a complementary list of gentleman CEOs, we get the following from 2012 – 2017:

Surviving Men CEOs 2012-2017

  • 9. Alan Mulally – Ford Motor (retired)
  • 18. Larry J. Merlo – CVS Caremark, jumped to 7 (plus 11)
  • 27. Bob McDonald – Procter & Gamble
  • 40. Ian C. Read – Pfizer, dropped to 55.(minus 15)
  • 44. Michael Saul Dell – Dell, (company went private, +/- 0)
  • 49. Brian L. Roberts – Comcast, jumped to 37.(plus 12)
  • 71.  Miles D. White – Abbott Laboratories, dropped to 138 (minus 67)
  • 124. David T. Seaton  – Fluor, dropped to 155 (minus 31)
  • 126. Richard J. Kramer – Goodyear Tire & Rubber, dropped to 169 (minus 43)
  • 233. Roland Smith – Office Depot (thru 2/27/2017), jumped to 196, (plus 37)
  • 249. Thomas J. Quinlan III – R.R. Donnelley & Sons, dropped to 255 (minus 6)
  • 265. John E. McGlade – Air Products & Chemicals (retired)
  • 333. Vince Forlenza – Becton Dickinson,  jumped to 278. (plus 55)
  • 389. John Workman – Omnicare (retired)
  • 395. Peter J. Rose – Expeditors International of Washington (retired)
  • 450. Michael Rapino – Live Nation Entertainment, jumped to 366. (plus 84)
  • 462. Steve Wynn – Wynn Resorts, dropped to 585 (minus 123)
  • 463. Bob Laikin – BrightPoint, acquired by Ingram Micro at 64 (plus 399)
  • 482. John F. Barrett – Western & Southern Financial Group, jumped to 479. (plus 3)
  • 498. Alec Covington – Nash-Finch, now SpartanNash, jumped to 351. (plus 143)

For the gentlemen CEOs the combined ranking increase was  11-15+12-67-31-43+37-6+55+84-123+399+3+143 = 459 across the 14 companies for which 5 year rankings of the CEOs were possible to find. The mean rank increase was about 33 points over 5 years per company, or about 6.6 ranks per company per year.

15 of the 20 men still held their titles after 5 years, compared to just 10 of the 20 women.

8 of the men improved the ranking of their companies, compared to 0 of the women.

Final result: Men at plus 459 were 1002 ranks higher than comparable women CEOs, who scored minus 443. This was not just a slaughter of women CEOs, this was Bambi meets Godzilla.

I did everything I could to favor the women – I selected men who had more to lose and less to gain. I picked the Obama years, the most favorable to women ever. None of the men benefited from the collapse of the woman CEO just below them. I did not count the Women’s Mylan disaster against their rankings, nor did I credit Michael Dell for taking Dell Computer private in a sweet buyout. I had to stretch the original rules to include Wynn Resorts, the worst performer on the men’s list. I counted all the women CEO terminations the same as the longtime service retirements of the men.

Despite all this, no lip gloss nor alchemy could salvage the financial image of the women CEOs.

Updated 5/5/2017 to correct a math error. 

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