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The Joy of Enterprise Management Incentives
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3 min read

What's in a name? Well, quite a lot as it happens...

What's in a name? Well, quite a lot as it happens...

Revealed: the first names you're most likely to encounter in the workplace. 

The question of whether our name influences our career path is an interesting one. 

Proponents of nominative determinism certainly believe it can play a big part in pushing some people towards their chosen role and industry. Could Usain Bolt – the fastest man in the world for many years – have been anything other than a record-breaking sprinter?  

While the scientific basis of nominative determinism is dubious at best, we know from our own anecdotal experiences that there are people whose name just seems to ‘fit’ their role. 

Rather than their name literally reflecting their profession or trade (baker, butcher etc), many people have preconceived ideas of what an accountant, a marketeer, a factory worker or a doctor looks like.

Whether we’re conscious of it or not, it’s sometimes difficult to shake off the connotations around age, class, gender and ethnicity associated with many jobs.

Children of the ‘80s and ‘90s

If you grew up in the ‘80s or ‘90s, chances are you’d have a few Davids, Jameses, Daniels, Louises, Claires and Sarahs in your year at school (and perhaps the odd Kylie if their parents were fans).

You might have one of these names yourself. It was a time before unusual first names had really taken off, when fitting in was generally more important than standing out. 

A generation or two later and these people are now well into their careers – so it’s no surprise that their names now dominate some sectors and roles too. 

But which ones come out on top?

According to our research, you’re most likely to meet a David and a Sarah in your workplace.

Taking the 25 most common first male and female names of adults in the UK, we used LinkedIn data to calculate the proportion of people nationally who share a name and job title.

We found that nearly 8% of men in the workforce are called David, while 11% of women in the dataset are called Sarah.

ceo_names_infographics-01

The results are based on a sample of 20 roles across 20 sectors (400 job titles in total), and just over a million (1,014,872) LinkedIn profiles.

Top male and female names in the workplace 2024

 Male names

 Percentage

 David

 7.87%

 James

 7.38%

 Andrew

 6.26%

 Stephen

 6.22%

 Steven

 6.1%

 Paul

 5.83%

 Michael

 5.59%

 John

 5.51%

 Christopher

 5.50%

 Mark

 4.89%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Female names

 Percentage

 Sarah

 10.97%

 Emma

 5.96%

 Samantha

 5.77%

 Rebecca

 5.06%

 Laura

 4.90%

 Elizabeth

 4.47%

 Claire

 4.14%

 Susan

 4%

 Joanne

 4%

 Helen

 3.89%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at the most popular names per industry, there is very little variation. David is the most common male name in half of the ones we analysed, followed by James at 45%. 

Sarah is the most common female name in 12 out of 20 industries, then Samantha at seven.

The high proportion of Samanthas in automotive, electronics, manufacturing and construction could be down to the fact that these industries are traditionally male-dominated, so there are fewer women working in them overall.

CEO Names Infographics-03

Top male names in the workplace by industry

 Name

 Industry

 Percentage

 Steven

 Fashion

 18.34%

 James

 HR

 11.39%

 James

 Retail

 10.57%

 David

 Charity/not-for-profit

 9.73%

 James

 Legal

 9.44%

 James

 Hospitality

 9.13%

 James

 Marketing

 8.88%

 James

 Technology 

 8.57%

 David

 Finance

 8.55%

 James

 Property

 8.52%

 James

 Automotive

 8.51%

 David

 Manufacturing

 8.49%

 David

 Education 

 8.44%

 David

 Business leaders

 8.11%

 David

 Local authority

 8.19%

 David

 Electronics

 8.01%

 David

 IT

 8%

 David

 Healthcare

 7.99%

 David

 Logistics

 7.5%

 James

 Construction

 7.41%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top female names in the workplace by industry

 Name

 Industry

 Percentage

 Samantha

 Automotive

 61.83%

 Samantha

 Electronics

 48.34%

 Samantha

 Manufacturing

 27.42%

 Samantha

 Construction

 23.19%

 Samantha

 IT

 16.41%

 Sarah

 Healthcare

 15.82%

 Samantha

 Technology

 13.28%

 Sarah

 Marketing

 10.82%

 Sarah

 Property

 10.13%

 Sarah

 Charity/not-for-profit

 10.47%

 Sarah

 HR

 10.31%

 Sarah

 Education

 10.30%

 Sarah

 Legal

 9.93%

 Sarah

 Fashion

 9.87%

 Samantha

 Business leaders

 9.81%

 Sarah 

 Finance

 9.59%

 Sarah

 Retail

 9.45%

 Sarah

 Local authority

 9.18%

 Sarah

 Logistics

 9.37%

 Sarah

 Hospitality

 9.34%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Delving into the figures further, we found that Davids are well-represented in senior and/or professional finance roles such as CFO, director of finance, accountant, and financial advisor.

Only 1% of them are in a more modestly-paid payroll administrator role, which commands an average salary of £20-27,000 per year

Sarah is the most prevalent name in finance – and while there are relatively healthy numbers in senior roles, they are also five times more likely to be in an administrative finance role compared to Davids. 

CEO Names Infographics-02

It’s notable too that business leaders (CEO, managing director etc) are seven times more likely to be called David than Samantha, the most prevalent female name in this category. 

What’s in a name?

It’ll be interesting to see how the lists change in the coming years.

We’ll no doubt see Noahs and Olivias, currently the most popular baby names, replacing Davids and Sarahs, while Susan, the eighth most common name in the workplace according to our research, could disappear completely after falling out of favour

Commenting on the findings, Ifty Nasir, CEO of Vestd, said:

“Our exercise might have been light-hearted but the results reflect wider social trends. Lack of representation in some roles and industries demonstrate how persistent some stereotypes are, including ones relating to the types of jobs men and women have.

“Many organisations recognise the value of diversity in the workplace, both ethically and commercially. It’s led some of them, including the Civil Service, to adopt blind recruitment tactics, where candidates omit information such as their name, gender, age and ethnicity. 

“Another way to improve diversity is through employee share schemes or enterprise management incentives (EMI schemes) – which quite literally create equity for people in a business, whatever their role or background. It’s also a powerful incentive for staff to work their way up the ranks which could improve representation at a senior level in the future.”

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