10 glass ceilings yet to be shattered
- 6 September 2011
- From the section Magazine
Jill Abramson takes over as the executive editor of the New York Times on Tuesday, the first woman to do so in the paper's 160-year history. So what other top jobs have yet to be taken by women?
There are a dozen female Fortune 500 CEOs, so it's easy to forget that some very visible positions have only ever been held by men.
Here's a list of some big jobs that have yet to find the right woman to fill them.
1. White House chief of staff
CJ Cregg of TV's The West Wing might make the list for best chief of staff of all time, save for the fact that she's fictional. Unfortunately, she's also the only female chief of staff on record.
2. Secretary General of the UN
Since its inception in 1945, the UN has only had eight leaders - all male. There's also never been a female head of the European Union or the Organization of American States.
3. Navy Seal
Due to current legislation, women can't serve in ground combat units, meaning no female members of the Seals, Army Rangers or Marine special ops members. Earlier this year, a commission on military diversity recommended changing this policy and in the summer, the head of the military's special ops division told ABC News that it was high time for a female Navy Seal. Women operatives, he said, have different strengths and skills than men, making them an effective complement to the existing force.
4. Fields Medal Winner*
Maths' highest honour has thus far gone only to men. But don't let that feed into any stereotypes about women, maths and sciences: numerous women have won Lasker awards, given to physicians and scientists who contribute to treating and eradicating diseases, and women have won in each of the Nobel prize categories.
5. Governor of New York
Or the 23 other states who have never had a female governor, including Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Iowa. Currently, there are six female governors, and that number looks to remain low, says Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women in Politics, at Rutgers University. "We haven't had as many women running as we need to have, it becomes a kind of domino effect," she says, noting that fewer women are seeking seats in the state legislature, which usually creates candidates for governor. To help combat this, the CAWP has launched an initiative recruiting women from non-political fields like science and technology to run for state office.
6. Head writer for The Simpsons
The show's been on for more than 20 years. It might take another 20 to see a woman rise to the top spot: there have been more than 100 writers credited with Simpsons scripts; only about 10% of them were written by women.
7. Baseball general manager or NFL commissioner
Women have owned major sports teams in Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League for decades, but the heads of the leagues have always been men.
8. Chess world champion
There have been female grandmasters, but none has achieved chess's highest distinction. This prize is open to both men and women, so while a separate women's world champion rank exists, some top female players choose not to compete for it. Just this week, the world's top female player, Judit Polgár, beat the number-one seed at the chess World Cup. Meanwhile, younger female chess players are slowly making their way in the sport. "I'm seeing more girls playing chess than 10 years ago, but it's still not even close to half," says Jennifer Shahade, author of Play Like a Girl and an advocate for women in chess.
9. News network president
The past five years have been good ones for women in journalism (see Abramson and Couric). But there's yet to be a woman overseeing an entire news network, and there's never been a woman director general of the BBC.
10. US president
The United States is one of the last Western countries to have never had a female head of state. And if that particular glass ceiling is to be broken in 2012, the most likely person to do so is Michele Bachmann, the only female candidate, although speculation persists that Sarah Palin may enter the race.
* This article originally misprinted the name of the maths award.