What's in a name? Possibly CEO status

Faith Merino · April 27, 2011 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/19bc

LinkedIn reports on the most common names for CEOs in the US

LinkedIn has performed an interesting little study of its own community to find out which names are most common among CEOs in the United States. The answer: short one- or two-syllable names for men and longer, formal names for women. And they’re all white Anglo-Saxon names, which I guess isn’t that surprising.

In a press release on Wednesday morning, LinkedIn said it found a surprising correlation between people in top positions and the lengths of their names. For example, male CEOs in the U.S. have short four-letter names. The top names for male CEOs, in order of most common, are:

1. Peter
2. Bob
3. Jack
4. Bruce
5. Fred

All pretty straight-forward childhood-summers-at-my-uncle’s-farm-in-Iowa names. This is a pretty interesting trend when you apply it to the top CEOs in the tech and Web industry: Steve (Jobs), Eric (Schmidt), Jeff (Bezos), Larry (Page), Mark (Zuckerberg), Dick (Costolo), Tim (Armstrong)—all four- or five-letter names. (I feel like I’m leaving someone out…)

But this isn’t the case for female CEOs, who tend to use their full names rather than shortened versions. The top names for female CEOs, according to LinkedIn, are:

1. Deborah
2. Sally
3. Debra
4. Cynthia
5. Carolyn

No “Debbies” or “Cindys” here.

“It’s no secret that people often associate their title, employer and even their education as part of what defines them and their professional brand,” said Monica Rogati, LinkedIn’s senior data scientist, in a statement. “What’s interesting about this data is that we were able to discover a correlation between a professional’s name and the industry or functional area in which they work.”

For example, the company noted, sales professionals tend to have shorter, more “chummy” sounding names, like Chip, Todd, and Trey, while engineers tend to have longer six-letter names, like Rajesh, Andrew, and Jeremy.

So why do male CEOs and men in sales professions tend to use shorter, abbreviated versions of their names while women tend to use more formal versions of their names?

“Typically hypocorisms, the shorter form of a given name, are used in intimate situations as a nickname or a term of endearment,” said Dr. Frank Nuessel, the editor of NAMES: A Journal of Onomastics, and a professor of classical and modern languages at the University of Louisville, in a statement. “It’s possible that sales professionals in the U.S. and male CEOs around the world use these shortened versions of their name as a way to be more approachable and accessible to potential clients. Interestingly enough, female CEOs appear to prefer to use their full names and not nicknames, which could signify that they want to be taken more seriously and want co-workers to think of them in a more professional light.”

Is it worth pointing out the fact that the two people in the announcement called upon to give their thoughts on the matter happen to fall into this exact pattern? (Monica vs. Frank.)

You might be noticing the absence of all Carloses, Jamals, Xiaojings, Lakishas, and Rajeevs. Some studies have suggested that resumes for people with ethnic names are consistently passed over for resumes for people with white-sounding names, despite having the exact same qualifications. One study performed for the National Bureau of Economic Research by the University of Chicago's Marianne Bertrand and MIT’s Sendhil Mullaina found that resumes with a white-sounding name are 50% more likely to get call-backs than resumes with black-sounding names. Could this same system portend whether a person rises to CEO status or not? Ask all the Steves, Jeffs, Tims, Erics, and Larrys out there.

Image source: ragan.com

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