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All Aboard: More Women CEOs and Fewer All-Men IPOs

Posted on January 30, 2020
image of shattered glass

I’m teaching a leadership class this term entitled, "Your Personal Leadership Trajectory," and this past week we discussed women in leadership. This is an online class, so the discussion takes place over the period of a week in the discussion board. The students discussed issues such as women being labeled as aggressive, the “B” word, the glass ceiling, and family impact on women—such as having to use vacation time to take children to doctor’s appointments or watch a school performance. Both the women and the men in the class bring a different perspective and experienced to the tab;e, and this is particularly true with this discussion. Some have felt the glass ceiling barriers, while others have witnessed its effects. Some have benefitted from that ceiling while others from the cracks in it.

As our conversation continued, the topic returned to the low percentage of women CEOs in the Fortune 500 companies and the Forbes list of top nonprofits. I have shred these lists with students a number of times, but I wanted to look a little deeper to see if women had made any progress in the nonprofit sector. I pulled the Forbes list and looked at the top 25 – 36 percent of the CEOs are women, with one literally having been named within 21 hours of me compiling the list. The conversation then turned to discussing why women only represent 36 percent of the top positions when 75 percent of nonprofit employees are women. How is that 25 percent of the employee pool is getting promoted to the top ranks?

While we did not come up with any concrete answers, nor could we find any literature to explain this phenomenon. However, at least one student is interested in researching this topic further, possibly for her capstone project.

There was one bright spot toward the end of our conversation. While doing a little research I came across a New York Post article published the day before entitled, “Goldman Sachs Will No Longer Do Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) for Companies with All-Male Boards.” David Goldman (chief executive) officially announced their new “Boards packed with bros won’t get IPOs” policy at the World Economic Forum in Davos claiming, “I look back at IPOs over the last four years and the performance of IPOs, [and when] it’s been a woman on the board [-] in the US, [the performance] is significantly better than the performance of IPOs where there hasn’t been a woman on the board.” Of course, I immediately posted this in the class discussion and we talked about Goldman’s platform, and given its size and stature, they likely have opened the door for others to follow.

So, thank you to the people at Goldman Sachs who suggested this this new policy, and thank you to its senior leadership who decided to adopt it. I'm here for the “Boards packed with bros won’t get IPOs” movement. This is one more chip in the proverbial glass ceiling.


Anne Converse Willkomm

Assistant Clinical Professor

Department Head of Graduate Studies

Goodwin College of Professional Studies

Drexel University

Posted in innovation-workplace