The glass ceiling that exists between women and C-suite positions may have cracks, but it certainly has not been shattered. Currently there are four times more men named John, Robert, William, or James than there are women CEOs of S.&P. 1500 firms. Four times!
“The comprehensive report ’Women CEOs in America 2021’, presented by the Women Business Collaborative, showed that 8.2% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women compared to 6.6% two years ago. In a world where new studies show men are being left behind in educational systems, men are still currently leagues ahead in the boardroom. Women make up more than 50% college-educated workforce, yet they only make up a fraction of CEOs. Why aren’t there more women CEOs?” – Zenger News
Lack of diversity at the top has been proven to impact an organization’s bottom line. A 2019 report by S&P Global found that companies with newly named female CEOs outperformed companies with newly named male CEOs. Research conducted by McKinsey in 2017 also established that companies with more women on their executive teams were 21% more likely to outperform their national industry median in earnings.
“There is unconscious and conscious bias in the corporate system — the notion women can’t be technical, that they’re great support, but they aren’t great leaders. Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Anne Chow, the CEO of AT&T Business.
“I’ve been asked where I’m from. I’ve been told that I’m surprisingly articulate and a good public speaker. I’ve been talked over in meetings and oftentimes been the only female and/or only female of color,” she said.
With most large corporations now having diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, the door is open to creating inclusive workplaces. Many corporations have begun making pledges to increase diversity of their leadership teams and overall employee population. While that is a step in the right direction, it is still a mere crack in the glass.
In addition to bias, there is a lack of sponsorship. Companies must be intentional about hiring CEOs based on merit and not just who they know. A sponsor is more than a mentor who provides advice and coaching. Sponsors open doors. Sponsors advocate for an employee to receive new opportunities and promotions. Sponsors mention your work to senior leaders or drop your name during important meetings. Women tend to have mentors, while men have sponsors. This makes it easier for men to capitalize on who they know, leveraging the relationship for career opportunities.
The results are clear, female CEOs can deliver greater returns and improved stock prices than their male counterparts. So, the real question is, is keeping men in power more important than trusting women to be successful leaders? Are America’s companies going to continue settling for changes, or work to shatter that glass ceiling that exists for non-male CEOs?