You can count the number of women CEOs on your fingers. It’s down to 24 after reaching an all-time high of 32 last year following a string of retirements – Irene Rosenfeld, Meg Whitman, Denise Morrison and the latest, PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi who is stepping down this year.
As the number of women CEOs continue to dwindle, I cannot help but wonder why there aren’t more Indra Nooyi’s around? Why is it so hard to groom women for the top job? For starters, although the number of women joining the workforce is rising, their numbers are concentrated in operational or support roles. And while there are plenty of women in entry-level positions, there is paucity at the mid- level because for most women, that is the time when responsibilities at home increase. This leaves us with a limited succession pipeline of women. And of course, the handful of women who manage to break the glass ceiling and move up the corporate ladder get pushed down “the glass cliff”.
Many nations and companies have tried to boost gender parity and women leadership with quotas but it seems of have little effect. I believe this is because women themselves do not want to come via quota. For us to have women succeeding women, we need to work on building the succession pipeline. This means continuous and increased effort from the ground up – a focus on keeping women talent strong across levels with mentoring programs, and importantly, stronger family support policies and structures. We need to pay more attention to “getting back to workforce programs” for women. The high potetial women leaders end up not even getting back once they take a break because they get pushed down and made to feel like they have lost out. If we spend enough resources, perhaps design a training program tailored specifically for women who want to get back to really get back at the right level, this problem can get solved very quickly. All the more critical in a tight employment market. The best part is we might get women who are fresh and not tired/burnt out, have a different perspective and with high EQ!!
It’s not easy but it’s worth it. Having a female CEO could pay off for your company. Quartz reports on an algorithm developed by Karen Rubin that correlates female leadership to stock performance of Fortune 1000 companies in the period from 2002 to 2014. Her findings: women-led companies earned investors a 340 percent return, compared to an S&P 500 benchmark of 122 percent. It’s time to change the statistic – shatter the glass ceilings and stay steady on the glass cliffs.
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