Moms in Power… You Got to Measure It to Move It!

By Global Moms Challenge

May 1, 2015

Guest Blog Post by Leith Greenslade 

Do you know how many of our most powerful politicians, CEOs, college presidents and religious leaders are also mothers? Do you know how many are fathers?  Neither did I, but I had a sneaking suspicion that where motherhood is a penalty when it comes to public power and influence, fatherhood is a bonus.  So to find out the truth, I created the first measure of motherhood and public power, the Motherhood+Public Power Index, and the results are shocking.


Of the 160 most powerful public leaders in the United States just 23, or 14.37 percent, are also mothers. This is in stark contrast to the high number of fathers represented – a total of 122 or 76.2 percent.  Of the four sectors measured by the Motherhood+Public Power Index, colleges perform the strongest with 9 of the top 40 colleges run by women who are also mothers – almost double the number of mothers in positions of leadership in governments, businesses and religious communities.  The business sector performed the worst of all sectors measured, with just 4 mothers among the top 40 CEOs.

Interestingly, within government, the US Congress and the Cabinet have the highest proportion of mothers in the top seats of power, followed by the Senate, and coming in last – State Governors as there are no mothers among the Governors of the ten largest US States!  In contrast, fathers are well represented across all sectors, securing more than 3 out of every 4 leadership spots, and more than 8 out of every 10 of the most powerful positions in government and business.

By revealing both the absolute and relative lack of mothers in leading positions across government, business, academia and religious communities in the United States, the Index creates a powerful call to action. When approximately 40 percent of the US population are mothers, how can we be satisfied with just 14 percent representation in the halls of power? And with more than 3 out of every 4 of the most powerful positions held by fathers, clearly having children need not act as a barrier to public influence.

If we had the same proportion of mothers leading our most powerful institutions as we do in the adult population, mothers would hold 64 of the top 160 government, business, academic and religious leadership positions, not 23.

Or to put it another way, the Motherhood+Public Power Index reveals that we need at least 11 more mothers in the 40 most powerful roles in government, 12 more running the top 40 companies, 7 more running the 40 best colleges, and 11 more among the 40 most influential religious leaders.

motherhood in power index

We need the many millions of mothers in the United States to celebrate the mothers already in powerful positions (see the list of the 23 most powerful mothers in the US below) and to push for the changes that would make it easier for more mothers to pursue their professional careers to the levels of highest influence.

We also need other countries to release their own Motherhood+Public Power Indices so we can compare country performances and build a global movement to put more mothers into seats of power.  It’s not enough if the United States increases the proportion of mothers in the top power positions. We can only know if increasing the number of mothers in power is truly transformative for world prosperity and security if we have countries like China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Russia, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines, Viet Nam, Ethiopia and Egypt 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.

You got to measure it to move it!

The Motherhood+PublicPower Index is in support of the UN Secretary-General’s Every Woman, Every Child movement.  The Index uses source data from the US Senate and Congress, the Whitehouse, the National Governors Association, the Forbes Global 2000, the Forbes America’s Top Colleges, and Newsmax’s Top 100 Christian Leaders in America.

The Most Powerful Mothers in America: Know Their Names


1. Sally Jewell, United States Secretary of the Interior

2. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, United States Representative (Washington, 5th Congressional District)

3. Patty Murray, United States Senator for Washington

4. Nancy Pelosi, United States Representative (California, 12th Congressional District) 

5. Penny Pritzker, United States Secretary of Commerce 


1. Mary Barra, CEO, General Motors

2. Safra Catz,Co-CEO, Oracle

3. Indra Nooyi, CEO, PepsiCo

4. Meg Whitman, CEO, Hewlett-Packard


1. H Kim Bottomly, President, Wellesley College

  1. Drew Gilpin Faust, President, Harvard University
  2. Amy Gutmann, President, University of Pennsylvania

4. Catharine Bond Hill, President, Vassar College

5. Michelle Johnson, Superintendent, United States Air Force Academy

6. Christina Paxson, President, Brown University

7. Carol Quillen, President, Davidson College

8. Debora Spar, President, Barnard College

9. Teresa Sullivan, President, University of Virginia


1. Roma Downey, Producer, ”The Bible”, “A.D. The Bible Continues”

2. Mary Ann Glendon, Professor, Harvard Law School

3. Joyce Meyer, Joyce Meyer Ministries

4. Victoria Osteen, Lakewood Church

5. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop, Episcopal Church of the United States


To see the full release, visit Motherhood+PublicPowerRelease

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