Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Morris Number - Further Research (Morris Number 07) (PhD Ideas 06)


Graduate students in labor economics, sociology, political science, history, statistics and womens' studies who are looking for a research topic might want to explore Morris Numbers. Obtaining the data could, of course, be daunting.

Government agencies (see questions 10-12 below), may make public the salaries of their employees. For other kinds of public employers, some compensation data may be public by statute. The civil service, and some companies, also have a system of grades: entry level jobs are in a low grade, management jobs are higher. Among private employers, those with a genuine desire to improve their diversity might be willing to provide researchers with information about their workforce, including an organizational chart and title, grade or salary, and gender. If data is impossible to come by, then these ideas are for thought experiments and discussion.

1. Compare Morris Numbers for different industries.

2. Compare Morris Numbers for different regions of the country.

3. Compare the OMNs for employers with 100 or fewer employees to those with 1000 or more.

4. Tech companies young and old: Collect data to evaluate the two true/false statements in Morris Number 05.

5. Find businesses willing to participate in the study. This would not, of course, be a random sample but it would be a place to start. Graph the Morris Numbers as a function of number of employees, median salary, assets, annual budget, stock price, population of city in which the main office is located, etc. Which factors, if any, have a relationship, direct or inverse, with the Morris Number?

Note: The Morris Numbers, ordinary and weighted, do not factor in the size of the company at all. The underlying assumption is that the ordinary Morris Number of any company with more than 10 employees ought to be in the single-digits; size is no excuse either way. But once there is a body of data on Morris Numbers, PhD candidates and other researchers could investigate whether size is now, or ever was, a good predictor of Morris Number.

6. Find a variety of organizations willing to participate: corporations, partnerships, family-owned and employee-owned businesses, universities, colleges, private schools, foundations, government agencies, non-profits concerned with health, religion, social welfare, etc., etc., etc. As with question 5, you will not have a random sample if you use willing participants, just a place to start. Does the Morris Number predict whether the employer is for-profit or not? If for-profit, are the Morris Numbers on average different for private corporations v. public? Among privately-owned entities, are there any striking differences among the Morris Numbers (the median? the spread?) for sole proprietorships, partnerships, closely-held corporations, or employee-owned businesses? If non-profit, does the purpose of the organization make a difference to the Morris Numbers?

7. Have Morris Numbers declined over the last decade? The last 30 years? What events or conditions have accompanied sharp declines, plateaus, or even increases in Morris Numbers?

8. In 2013, what was the median Morris Number for the Fortune 500, the Ivy League universities, the executive branches of state governments?

9. Track the Morris Number over a 10 year period for organizations with a female CEO, starting with two years before the woman took office. One company where historical data might be available, at least anecdotally from old timers, would be the Washington Post. In 1972 Katharine Graham was the first female CEO to make the Fortune 500 list. Graham had attained the highest position in the company -- Publisher -- in 1969. The Post, however, was not large enough to be on the Fortune 500 list until three years later when it reached number 478 out of 500. Graham, like Indira Gandhi, had a father in the business. Which brings us to the Indira Phenomenon.


As I thought about the question of female CEOs and whether women help other women, it occurred to me that sometimes in a highly male-dominated organization, a highly accomplished, intelligent and lucky woman rises to the top. Below her, however, it's men all the way down until the very bottom levels. The woman at the top is not the reason: the organization was like that before she came and will be like that after she leaves.

Consider Indira Ghandhi. Her becoming her country's leader did not signal that India had abandoned sexism. At least, however, it meant that the country had progressed far enough that Mrs. Gandhi, the daughter of a previous powerful leader (Nehru), could become Prime Minister.

10. Over the years when Indira Gandhi was in power (1966-77 and 1980-84), what was the lowest Morris Number in her government?

It would appear that entities dominated by men, whether governments or corporations, are more willing to have a woman at the top than anywhere else on the ladder except the bottom. The same could be said with whites/black substituted for men/women.
When Thurgood Marshall became a Supreme Court Justice in 1967, African-Americans in the federal judiciary were very few in number. Once Marshall was on the Supreme Court, there were 1 out of 9 justices = 11% Blacks. For the judiciary as a whole, the percentage was much worse: there were 455 judgeships in the federal courts, according to page 8 of tables available from, and 13, or about 3%, filled by Blacks. (Both the 455 and the 13 include Marshall.) More than half of those judges were appointed by Lyndon Johnson. References: "Integration of the Federal Judiciary" on, Picking Federal Judges by Sheldon Goldman (1999), and Black Firsts by Jessie Carney Smith (2nd ed. 2003).
PhD students in sociology and social psychology probably have examined the Indira Phenomenon under another name. If not, it is worth examining.

11. Compare Indira Gandhi's government's lowest Morris Number with those of other female world leaders, such as, in chronological order: Golda Meir (1969), Maggie Thatcher (1979), Corazon Aquino (1986), Benazir Butto (1988), and Angela Merkel (2005).

12. Trace the Morris Numbers over time in the governments of India, Israel, Britain, the Philippines, Pakistan and Germany, starting with the male leaders who preceded each female head of state and ending five years after she left office (or in the present, in the case of Germany). Compare the numbers with those of male-led countries during the same time periods.
13. Female CEOs: Identify pairs of peer organizations who chose new CEOs at around the same time, one that chose a male and one a female. Evaluate whether or not "women don't help other women" by looking at how the Morris Number changed with time in each company, starting from a few years before each new CEO was hired.

The question of why I had chosen to look for the 5th highest ranking woman, rather than, say, 2nd or 10th, made me think about how the gender mix at different ranks might reflect (or not) the company as a whole, the population as a whole, etc. But ranks are hard to define. They are also hard to compare from one organization to another. I thought about a more objective way to compare companies and came up with compensation deciles:


Find out how many employees there are in the organization and divide that number by ten. That is the number of people in each decile. Then comes the hard part. Obtain compensation (salary + benefits) paid to all employees, and order it from highest paid to lowest paid. No identifying information other than gender (or other demographic under study) would be needed.

Given the "Inequality for All" that infects so many US entities, we can expect that the range of compensation within each decile will be different for different deciles. The decile with the lowest salaries will have a narrow range. Within the decile with the highest salaries, however, the highest paid employee (the CEO in a company, the athletic director in some universities) might receive a compensation package that is 10 times - or many more than 10 times - that of the lowest paid person (who is still making more than 90% of the company's workforce).

The medical supply company McKesson, which according to Forbes, has had the highest paid CEO in the US for the last 13 years, currently pays him $131.2 million. At what compensation level does McKesson's top decile begin? If it is as high as $565,000, then the salaries in the top decile will differ by a factor of 200 (565K x 200 = 130M.) If it is lower than 565K, then someone in the top 10% of the company makes less than 1/200 of what the CEO makes. And it might be lower: McKesson's average [or do they mean median?] product manager, the title with the highest average salary according to this site makes 198K. Even adding a handsome benefits package and employer-paid social security and all the rest, the CEO probably makes 600 times more than that product manager.
14. Is the compensation spread in the top decile a predictor of the Morris Number?

Half the employees of an organization may be women but that does not tell us much about equal opportunity if all the women are at the bottom of the compensation scale. In the 1950s or 1960s (think Mad Men and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying), women in business were secretaries or file clerks and women in food services or hotels were waitresses and room cleaners. How much has that changed?

This may have been the subject of countless studies already. Here are some follow-up ideas.

15. For any organization, what is the percentage of women in each compensation decile? Is there any decile with gender equality? What is the highest of the compensation deciles at which the percentage of women is the same as it is for the company as a whole?

16. In a group of 100 organizations (businesses, law firms, nonprofits, etc.,) how often is the lowest compensation decile the one with the highest percentage of women? If that is the case for most entities in the sample, what characteristics, if any, are common to the outliers?

17. For any organization, identify the decile, if any, in which the compensation of the median woman equal to or better than the compensation for the median man. If none, in which decile is the median woman's compensation the closest to the median man's?

March 19, 2014; updated 20140331,0403


  1. Your ideas are highly valid and deserve wider publication, but your presentation is awful. Your series on the Morris number should be better organized and indexed. I had to jump from link to link all over the place to make sense of it. At the end of each section, provide a link to the next section. Also, instead of an outline about what each post in the Morris number series deals with, provide a general introduction at the beginning, (a better way to calculate gender inequity in companies' is enough) and a more specific introduction before each part, linking it to the previous. That alone should get you more of the page views you rightly deserve.

    1. Many thanks for your kind words, and your honest ones as well. I really appreciate this feedback and will be making some changes along the lines you suggest. You have been extraordinarily helpful. Thank you, whoever you are!