Of the four sectors measured by the Motherhood+Public Power Index, universities and governments perform best in promoting leaders who are also mothers into the top jobs. This is due to the larger number of American universities led by women who are also mothers, and to the stronger representation of women in the USA, Russian, and Indian governments, relative to other sectors. In contrast, the business and philanthropic sectors record the lowest representation of mothers, with only seven among the top 160 CEOs and six on the list of top 160 billionaires across the USA, China, Russia, and India.
The conclusion could not be clearer – mothers are dramatically underrepresented in the halls of power in the USA, China, Russia and India, while fathers are dramatically overrepresented. In short, having children is a barrier to public power and influence for only one gender. If the USA, China, Russia, and India had the same proportion of mothers leading their most powerful institutions as they do in the population (40%), we would expect to see 46 more mothers in the top jobs in the USA, 55 more in India, and 58 more in Russia and China. Since the Motherhood+Public Power Index was launched in 2015, there has been no progress in the proportion of women with children among the most powerful leaders. In fact, the rate in the USA has fallen from 14% in 2015 to 11% in 2019. The even lower rates across China, Russia, and India speak to the steep barriers to leadership women with children still face in the most powerful countries in the world.
What can be done to accelerate the proportion of women who are also mothers into four out of every 10 leadership positions? First, we need mothers in the USA, China, Russia, and India to celebrate and support the mothers already in powerful positions (see the list of the 39 most powerful mothers in the USA, China, Russia, and India below). We should all know their names.
Second, we all need to push for the changes that would make it easier for more mothers to pursue their professional careers to the levels of highest influence across government, business, academia, and civil society. Primarily this will involve a profound transformation in work norms so that workplaces deliver on the “deep and temporal flexibility” championed so powerfully by Anne-Marie Slaughter, Claudia Goldin, and Joan Williams.
Third, we need to build a truly global movement to put more mothers into seats of power. It’s not enough if the USA, China, Russia, and India increase the proportion of mothers in the top power positions. We need countries like Indonesia, Pakistan, Brazil, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines, Egypt, Ethiopia, Viet Nam, Iran, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Turkey, and Thailand taking on motherhood and public power – measuring it, publicly reporting on it, and ultimately putting in place the policies and programs that will achieve a critical mass of mothers in positions of public influence everywhere.
The world can no longer afford to pay the high price it has been paying for the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions, and especially women with children. In the 21st century we need the very best leaders at the helms of our most powerful institutions and nations – people who truly reflect the diversity of skills, talents, experiences, and values in our populations.
The Motherhood+Public Power Index is in support of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals and the UN Secretary-General’s Every Woman, Every Child movement. The Index uses the latest source data from official USA, China, Russia, and India government websites, the Forbes Global 2000, the World University Rankings 2018, and Forbes Billionaires 2018.
Published September 2019