Those conditions are understood. Both academia and the market are in agreement that the CMO does matter in a number of different situations. Therefore, the question of whether or not a female CMO affects firm performance is very much a valid one.
The first research question is: What academic background contributes most to a woman's ascension to CMO or VP of Marketing? This question is basic, and can be answered with secondary research alone. The biographies of executives are often made public, and a comparison can easily be done between female CMOs and their male counterparts.
The second research question is: What are the critical success factors for young women who aspire to be CMOs and VPs of Marketing? This question is important. The literature review highlights some of the conditions under which the CMO has more of an effect on the firm's performance. For females to overcome the glass ceiling and demonstrate a superior level of success, there must be specific conditions for that to happen. Arguably, if there are no specific conditions, that would support the idea of eliminating the glass ceiling. The key with this question is to understand some of the details between the career paths of different women who have become CMOs and to understand how these key success factors translate to on-the-job performance.
The third research question is: Have company revenues increased following the hiring of a female CMO? In order to evaluate CMO effectiveness, a measure of company success is required. There are many potential such measures, but revenue is one that is most directly related to the marketing function. Profit is less related, because the marketing department at most firms has little control over the firm's cost structure, which is driven more by production costs, R&D and managerial spending. Market share is a somewhat nebulous concept and is difficult to use as a result. The market must first be defined, and there is no consistent way of doing that, and there is no body that publishes market share information anyway. Market share is always estimated, and is therefore subject to differences in estimation methodology. This makes markets share an unreliable measure. Therefore, revenue is the best approach to answering this question.
With these questions, the current study hopes to shed new light on the career paths that take females to the CMO role, and how they fare once they arrive in that position. The current study will therefore add breadth to the study of the glass ceiling, by covering an area that is still rather nascent in its study. The current study is expected to provide the groundwork for further studies exploring the issue of the glass ceiling as it pertains specifically to marketing executives.
Section II: Review of the Literature
The phenomenon of the glass ceiling refers to the underrepresentation of females in senior management positions. The glass ceiling has been subject to considerable academic study in recent decades, both in terms of how the ceiling has come about, what effects it has both on companies and the economy at large, and what can be done to eliminate the glass ceiling. A study of literature on the glass ceiling reveals a few core realities. The first is that the ceiling persists even today, long after one would have thought it would have disappeared. The second is that the glass ceiling is costly for both businesses and economies, and the third is that eliminating the glass ceiling typically has economic benefits in terms of unlocking talent and bringing new perspectives to business leadership.
Ragins, Townsend and Mattis (1998) note that while women "constitute nearly half of the U.S. labor force and occupy a significant and growing proportion of entry and mid-level management positions," they remain underrepresented in senior management roles. The authors also note that there has been little progress in bringing women into senior management positions over time, contrary to the expectations of sociologists and business researchers. The glass ceiling, a metaphorical invisible barrier that prevents the upward progress of females (and other groups), is deemed the cause of this lack of progress. The authors also note that 92% of executive women report that the glass ceiling does indeed exist, indicating that these women probably had firsthand experience in dealing with the phenomenon, even though they have broken through the glass ceiling to enter executive positions.
Meyerson and Fletcher (1999) condense some of the research about the glass ceiling into a manifesto for breaking through the glass ceiling. They note that at the root of the problem is that organizations have traditionally been founded by and designed by men, with male perspectives leading to structures that ultimately favor those who function better in those environments. Women can move ahead to a point, but have a more difficult time truly excelling, which is why they remain underrepresented in the executive suite. This finding is particularly relevant for the current study, because if there is to be a difference in the performance between male and female CMOs across a broad spectrum of companies, it is likely to be found in the culture of the organization, and in its organizational design. Female managers, if the arguments of Meyerson and Fletcher are to hold, will have different designs and cultures in general, and this will lead to differences in performance.
Bass and Avolio (1994) present a case that women may make better managers. Such a case would argue that eradicating the glass ceiling would be optimal for businesses and for society in general. The authors argue that corporate management is trending towards "high-involvement work teams, consensus decision-making and empowerment" and that females in general are more adept at these management styles. The authors also argue the case that females are more transformational as leaders, something that might reflect different perspectives. This paper is useful to our current study because it presents some arguments as to why female managers might well outperform their male counterparts. The underlying argument is the same as well -- that eliminating the glass ceiling makes for more effective organizations.
Also relevant to our current study is the work of Wirth (2001). This work features a section that outlines the career paths of female and male corporate leaders. One key section highlights educational opportunity and choice as a factor in the glass ceiling, but there is also evidence presented that the career paths of women post-education play a role. The gender differences in career paths are important to understanding the issue of the glass ceiling, and are the focus of the current research. In this paper, survey results are presented that show the men will often follow the career path of older, successful men while women do not emulate such career paths as closely. The career paths of women, therefore, are more frequently derailed. This is an important consideration in the current study as well, because the question must be asked whether the women who have proven successful as CMOs are those whose career paths emulate those of male CMOs or if they have taken different paths to the position. It is also worth considering whether there is a difference in performance between women with a more traditional "male" career path to the position and those women who take an atypical career path. The current study should lay a foundation for future studies that draw on Wirth's work to answer questions such as these. This paper also supports the idea that the glass ceiling should be eroding, as women are better suited (in general) to open, diverse organizations that emphasize consensus decision making.
Liff and Ward (2001) also present some interesting background study on the nature of the glass ceiling. The authors examine two related concepts. The first is that women do not reject leadership positions but rather they reject the way in which management/leadership is currently organized. This fits in with a trend in the rest of the literature that holds, roughly, that a lot of women do not seek out senior management positions because they are turned off by the way that such work is organized. The second element of Liff and Ward's work is that they feel women are given an understanding of senior management work that turns them off of such positions, whether or not that understanding is founded in reality.
The literature with respect to the glass ceiling repeats the same themes regarding career paths and the nature of senior management work. There appears to be a lower level of compatibility between stereotypically "female" management styles and stereotypically "male" ones. These differences contribute to the gender gap. Based on this analysis, the current study should probably lead to a finding that females who have made it to the CMO position will have experienced a career path very similar to that of males in the same position. If the career path is the same, then that might mean that the outcome of female leadership is not going to be that much…