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Why so few female CEOs at Fortune 500 companies?
For years, women have outperformed men in school. They are more likely to go to college and to graduate. Yet they also routinely opt out of, or are deterred from, paths that would lead to the corner office. Only 24 of America’s top Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs. And at all but a few of the nation’s top business schools, two of every three seats in the full-time MBA programs are filled by men
The Obama administration says it wants to know whether, and how, the top tiers of American business can be restructured so more women stay on track to elite leadership roles, and is holding a series of events across the country designed to talk about barriers to women’s advancement. Recently, the White House gathered a group of deans from the nation’s top business schools for a half-day conference which was deamed "productive".
While some companies are open to flex scheduling, allowing women to ramp on and ramp off of the fast track, according to attending accademics, real change at top-tier corporations, banks and law firms won’t come easy, in part because many of those firms aren’t convinced that they should change. According to Thomas W. Gilligan, dean of the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin, "If it were that evident that providing flexible workspace was in the firms’ best interest, they would have jumped on this a long time ago.”
That’s cause for worry at the White House and elsewhere. If women routinely opt out of careers in investment banking and other fields because they believe they won’t allow them to also raise families, then the pool of potential top leaders will remain overwhelmingly male. That hurts the companies, too, which research has shown make better decisions if leadership ranks include men and women.
But it's not all doom and gloom - A recent survey by Women of Influence Inc. Thomson Reuters and Barbara Annis & Associates shows that executive women are more confident than ever and are primed for the C-suite. The survey and related white paper examined how senior executive women from across North America define their leadership skills and maturity, level of satisfaction in their careers, the challenges they experience in their careers and the actions they are taking to progress.
The analysis highlights the importance for Senior women to market themselves, as well as the importance of Networking in building their brand and influencing their own careers. Additionally the report provides organizations with some key tangible ways benefit from diversification and inclusion.
Barbara Annis, a leading expert on gender intelligence, has called for a move towards co-gender leadership as a way for businesses to combine the talents and skills innate to both genders."With their ambition and proven passion for their work, it’s inevitable that the presence of women in the C-suite will increase over the next five to ten years," said Patsy Doerr, global head of Thomson Reuters Diversity & Inclusion and Corporate Responsibility. "Companies that foster a culture of inclusion and invite diversity of thinking will, ultimately, reap the benefits, have a competitive advantage and will be best prepared for the future of business."
Watch this video for a preview of the whitepaper.
Download the full white paper Solutions to Women’s Advancement.
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