The preparation of this book began when we realized that two research efforts, initially focused on either end of the management career, had expanded to the extent that they met in the middle. In the late 1970s, we began studying the backgrounds of chief executive officers (CEOs). We were particularly interested in the differences that existed across industries. Later, while we were studying other issues concerning CEOs, such as changes in functional backgrounds over time, we began working on the other end of the business career with a study of early intra- organizational mobility. The early mobility study was then extended upward with a policy capturing study of the general management promotion decision. At about the same time, we decided that studies of CEOs only did not answer all of our questions about top executive backgrounds and careers. For example, to merely ask whether the new CEO came from inside or outside, or from a particular functional area or from general management is not highly enlightening because of the frequent change of positions that often precedes appointment as chief executive. The following is a typical scenario. An executive comes into the company from outside as vice president of finance; one year later he becomes an executive vice president; after two more years he is appointed president and chief operating officer; and three years after that, he is elected chairman and CEO. Is this person an insider or an outsider? Is he a functional specialist or a general manager? To gain a better understanding of these issues, we studied a large number of top executive promotions, from the vice president/general management level all the way up to CEO.
Of particular interest today are the positions of women executives. We conducted two detailed analyses of the backgrounds and placement of America's top female executives, and noted the progress made from