12 February 2013

A very Economic Elite: The Case of the Danish top CEOs

Article by Christoph Houman Ellersgaard (PhD-fellow at the Department of Sociology, Copenhagen University), Anton Grau Larsen (PhD-fellow at the Department of Sociology, Copenhagen University) and Martin D. Munk (Professor, Department of Political Science and government, AAU)

E-First article in Sociology.

The article compares the 100 most important Danish top CEOs with their English, French and German counterparts. The article also explores their career path towards the job as a CEO, as well as their sociological background; where they were born, what kind of occupation their fathers held, their educational background, which job position they held before their position as CEO and how quickly they ascended to a position in top management.

The CEOs where described by information obtained from “Kraks Blå Bog”, “Greens Erhvervsinformation”, BIQ and press coverage. The data was analyzed using correspondence and cluster analysis.

Homogeneous CVs among the Danish CEOs
The Danish CEOs differed from their foreign colleagues in a number of different areas. Their university diploma has less academic prestige - there are no sign of an elite education for the business elite only in Denmark – fewer make their career outside the economic field and the Danish CEOs often make their career in many different companies, and in smaller ones as well.

The trajectory through many and smaller companies applies in particular to one special group of CEOs, the salesmen, who often come from the countryside and from families of self-employers.

On the other hand the Danish CEOs resembled each other as well as their foreign colleagues a lot when it comes to;

  • Gender
  • Social Background
  • Lifestyle

Only 2 out of 100 CEOs in Denmark are women, 33% have fathers with at position in top management and 4 out of 5 are from the top fifth of society. Thus the difference in career path suggest that there are different reproduction strategies for the business elite, but that it to a relatively large extent, in Denmark as well as France, England and Germany, consist of a homogeneous social group who recruits among their own.

Read the entire article (external website).