Peter Cappelli, Monika Hamori, and Rocio Bonet have published a fascinating article in Harvard Business Review about the backgrounds of the top executives in Fortune 100 companies. Their analysis compares executives today to those at the top of Fortune 100 companies several decades ago. Not surprisingly, they find that many executives graduated from top business schools. Interestingly, Sears (75%), Sunoco (70%), and Disney (63%) have the highest number of senior executives with MBA degrees. Of course, given Sears' performance in recent years, this data may not support those who champion the value of an MBA degree! Ouch!
The study offers some other fascinating results. For instance, their analysis examines the amount of "lifers" at these large firms. In other words, how many top executives have spent their entire career at one company? Some firms have seen major changes in the percentage of lifers since 1980. For instance, Honeywell has experienced an 80% decrease in lifers since 1980. However, other firms still have many people who started their career at the same firm. Here's a fascinating excerpt:
The 20 companies that have been in the Fortune 100 since 1980—the most firmly established of the great corporations—still had at least one foot in the Organization Man era even in 2011. Almost half their senior executives were lifers. At Chevron and UPS, that was true of 90% of top-team members.
Finally, the study does show an increase in diversity in the c-suite. Many more women and people of international backgrounds occupy senior roles today as compared to 1980. However, the scholars note, "Both groups are still far from achieving parity with U.S. men."