There are far more men called John leading the UK’s biggest companies than women, according to a Guardian namecheck of the FTSE 100 that shows the starkness of the gender divide at the top of the corporate world.
Among chief executives and chairs of FTSE 100 companies, there are 17 men called John (or Jean) - outnumbering all the female bosses put together. Men called David or Dave also outnumber women, by 2:1.
By contrast, the number of women women at the top of British companies can be counted on two hands: a grand total of seven. Véronique Laury became chief executive of Kingfisher in January, joining a select group of CEOs that includes Liv Garfield at Severn Trent, Moya Greene at Royal Mail, Alison Cooper at Imperial Tobacco and Carolyn McCall at Easyjet. Only two women occupy the role of company chair - Dame Alison Carnwath at Land Securities and Susan Kilsby at pharmaceutical group Shire.
Female leaders of FTSE 100 companies are outnumbered by Davids, Ians, Marks or Andrews (or variations of those names) by nearly 5:1.
The corporate clout of Johns is mirrored across the other side of the Atlantic, where the New York Times found more men called John than women running the biggest companies in the US. Their study was inspired by a recent Ernst & Young report, which showed that for every one women on the board of American companies, there were 1.03 Jameses, Roberts, Johns and Williams.
In Australia, however, Peters are in the lead. More men with that name hold the chief executive and chair positions of companies in the ASX200 – Australia’s 200 largest listed companies – than women.
The Guardian’s survey of the FTSE 100 reveals a particularly British twist: there are more men with knighthoods leading British companies than women. A total of 19 company chairmen and chief executives use the title ‘Sir’, nearly three times as many as women of any rank.
Almost 23% of boardroom roles are now filled by women, up from 12.5% in 2010, following a government-backed campaign urging companies to ensure at least 25% of their top team is female. But most are non-executive, part-time directors. Smashing the glass ceiling for chief executive and chair jobs is proving to be harder: only 3.5% of these roles are occupied by women.
The prevalence of Johns and Davids is not just a feature of the corporate world. Out of 650 MPs, 23% are women, nearly 5% are called David or Dave and 3.5% are named John. The Conservative party, boasts 17 Davids, including its leader David Cameron, compared to 48 women. On the Labour benches, there are 86 women and 10 Davids/Daves, while the Liberal Democrats have seven women and three Davids.
Heather Jackson, founder of An Inspirational Journey, an organisation that advises companies on getting more women into senior roles, said putting the spotlight on the FTSE 100 highlighted the problem of gender imbalance in a simple way. “Put like that it summarises how far we have to go to get more female CEOs at the top.”
She said it takes “a good twenty years to get a good CEO in place, developing them from middle management”. But, she added, too many companies were cutting back on programmes and training aimed at improving gender balance at the top.
“The systems and processes are in place, but it is the desire to implement that is going wrong,” she said. “They are talking about it rather than walking it.”
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