Why the Next Mary Barra May Be a Long Time Coming

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from Bloomberg Businessweek,

Mary Barra made corporate history seven months ago when she became the first female chief executive officer of a major global carmaker. Yet for all the gains women at the highest levels of U.S. companies have made, most are still in the wrong jobs if they want to follow Barra’s career path.

That’s because unlike Barra, who’d been in charge of General Motors’ (GM) product development for two years before her appointment, a majority of top-ranked women at companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index aren’t in the kinds of operational jobs—think division heads or senior managers in charge of key product lines—that usually lead to the corner office. Rather, 55 percent of them are in functional roles—top lawyers, finance chiefs, and heads of human resources—according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

About 94 percent of the S&P 500 CEOs held senior operations positions immediately before ascending to the top job, and the relative scarcity of women overseeing product lines or entire businesses has slowed their advance to the pinnacle. The data suggest that the next generation of female executives is not positioned to capitalize on the growing recognition by many companies, including Google and Apple, of the lack of diversity within their executive ranks.

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