Who makes the cut when it comes to corporate America? Overall, it is what you would typically picture, a white male in his 50s with an MBA who has switched jobs every four years. The good news for the rest of us is, a new study from Harvard Business Review shows 3 ways boardroom leadership is changing.

It was found that a majority of these top executives have undergraduate degrees from state universities, and only a fraction went to an Ivy League school. Over time, the education backgrounds of top corporate leaders has become much more equal. In 1980, just 32 percent of leaders went to a public university. By 2001, that had grown to 48 percent, and in 2011 the number reached a majority, with 55 percent of corporate leaders going to state colleges. Private non-Ivy educations have even plummeted, falling from 54 percent in 1980 to just 35 percent in 2011. Not to be confusing, elite schools still hold sway among MBA-holders and top leaders. Additionally, 40 percent of all the executives who hold MBAs got them at one of the top 20 ranked business schools in the country, many of which are at Ivy League universities.

Another blaring stereotype rather than education, is gender.  There may be few women in leadership positions, but they actually climb the corporate ladder faster than men, spending fewer years, on average, in each job and take a shorter time to get to the top. Women reach “middle-tier” jobs in 23 years, compared to me, who typically take 26 years. Women held almost 18 percent of top jobs in 2011, which is a massive increase from 1980 when there were no women reported to be among the top 1,000 corporate leaders.

Each leadership rank differs within different companies. For instance, the average length of a top Google executive’s career is just 14 years (the shortest in the Fortune 100) while at Hewlett Packard and ConocoPhillips, it’s 32 years (the longest). Also, some companies have outstanding male-to-female ratios among the top 10 execs — at Target, Lockheed Martin and PepsiCo, women hold half the senior management jobs — while as of 2011, there were still 17 companies in the Fortune 100 with no women at all among their top 10 leaders. The corporate model of leadership is changing, and shows promise for more diverse future generations.

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