Women on Top

This year, Fortune 500 companies have the highest percentage of female CEOS of all time. How many women does this ladder up to? A remarkably low 32. However, even slow change is change, and this number is up 34% from last year’s 21. The progress is promising in achieving the 100×25 initiative, a push for 100 of the Fortune 500 CEOS to be female by 2025. The Rockefeller foundation funded a research program to create an actionable plan that can be implemented to achieve this goal. This research synthesized the career paths, personality attributes and attitudes of 57 female CEOs to help crack the code of these leaders’ success, and identify future high-potential female leaders. Below are the 8 key takeaways the research yielded:

  • Women could be ready for the CEO role sooner
    • These CEOS worked harder and longer to get to the same place as their male counterparts.
  • Women are driven by achieving business results and making a positive impact.
    • Power, status and reward are not the key attraction to women pursuing a power role. Rather, a sense of purpose and desire to contribute value and shape culture.
  • Specific traits are essential to women’s success
    • Courage, risk-taking, resilience and managing ambiguity.
  • Women harness the power of experts and teams to succeed
    • The interviewed CEOs over index in humility and under index in confidence.
  • Women don’t see themselves as future CEOs
    • These leaders viewed themselves as intently focused on driving results, rather than advancement and success.
  • Backgrounds in STEM, business, finance, or economics are a launch pad for female CEOs.
    • These backgrounds enable women to build credibility in disciplines with clear, definable outcomes.

Given these eight key takeaways, the report suggests several steps companies can take to build and sustain female leadership:

  • Identify potential early
    • Implement high-potential development programs, and make well-rounded expertise a specific focus.
  • Illuminate the path to CEO
    • Affirm women’s potential, give the nudge.
  • Ensure sponsors
    • Beyond mentorship, women need crucial feedback and hands-on support.
  • Articulate roles in terms that engage women
    • Speak to motivation outside of job responsibilities and deliverables, like adding value to the business and benefiting employees.
  • Beware of the “glass cliff”
    • Women are often pit against state of crisis of high-risk failure projects. Provide women opportunities to regain footing if high-risk failure ensues.

The 100×25 initiative is certainly an ambitious effort, but when companies and employees are armed with the proper education, tools and strategies, progress is more achievable than ever before. To learn more about the study, and gain additional insight into female leadership, read the Harvard Business Review this article cites, found here.

Leave a comment