Despite gaining critical ground over the years and shifting how Corporate America operates, women still only hold just 4 percent of the nation’s top CEO positions.
Without a doubt, the issue of gender inequity is one that remains at the top of all of our newsfeeds and timelines.
Yet, reversing this trend won’t happen overnight. Ask most female business leaders and they’ll likely tell you that breaking the glass ceiling can be a long and sometimes arduous journey.
So, we traveled the country and spoke with 25 of the nation’s most influential and accomplished women in business to uncover what gave them confidence and who shaped their journeys as they sought to progress in their lives and careers.
We learned that while many were pioneers, they chose to align with people who empowered and inspired them. Further, they all agree that today it’s important—now more than ever—to inspire future and aspiring women leaders. Here’s why:
5. Women Leaders Can Be Trailblazers
According to Ilene Lang, former tech president & CEO of Catalyst, “When you’re a trailblazer, there is no path. I never knew where anything might lead. But, she adds, there’s a measure of freedom that comes with the unknown because there are no expectations. “It allowed for innovation,” she says, “because I had to find my own opportunities.”
4. Corporate America Needs More Team Players
“In their management approach…women are more collaborative. They’re willing to be questioned, and they consider other people’s opinions and needs. Good women leaders aren’t scared to ask the tough questions,” said Darla Stuckey, president and CEO of the Society for Corporate Governance.
3. Diversity of Thought Is Imperative
Nobody reaches the top alone, and running a business isn’t a one-person job. “One person can’t ever have all of the best ideas or the best vision or the best way of getting things done,” said Jenniffer Deckard, president and CEO of Fairmount Santrol. “The more diversity of thought, experience, perspective and expertise, the better. It’s the same for any group trying to solve, develop or accomplish something. And, that applies from corporate boardrooms to PTAs.”
2. Aspiring Leaders Gain From Inclusivity
“[Women] probably delve into the emotional quality of things differently. Not to say that men don’t—and some more than others,” Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton, CEO of Dream/Catcher Educational Consulting Services. “Men build teams, but those teams aren’t necessarily inclusive. Each team member may be doing his or her own thing toward a team goal. But women are more inclusive in helping each other perform their roles, in helping each other be successful.”
1. Women Leaders Empower Women Leaders
“Because I spent my entire career in male-dominated companies, I’ve tried to inspire other women to stick with it, to ultimately achieve that better balance. I know that the world, our companies and our communities will be much better off when we have greater gender balance,” Karen Parkhill, executive vice president and CFO of healthcare innovator Medtronic, said.
Let’s aim to turn the tide—to shift currents in a positive direction so more women rise to the top. By uplifting other aspiring and future women leaders, we can close the gender inequity gap at the top and drive better business results. After all, it’s not just the right thing to do; it’s just plain smart business.
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