Just today there was a new Linked In poll that was published. The question that was asked is “Why aren’t there more women CEO’s?” You could only pick one response which is tough as the issue is complex and there are many reasons. The 241 respondents picked the following responses:
- Institutional barriers (42%)
- Family is a bigger priority (26%)
- Lack of workplace flexibility (15%)
- Lack of female role models (7%)
- Less willing to take risks (10%)
Assuming that the data is fully representative of the sentiment of women leaders, here are three questions that the survey caused me to ask:
1) What are the most important institutional barriers? Likely, the high response rate on this means that there are multiple drivers underneath and we need to understand them. Based on the early comments coming in they seem to be around lack of sponsorship for women (“good old boy networks”). What do you think they are?
2) What do I do as a leader to change these institutional barriers? Personally, I have a hard time blaming “institutions” for our problems, because I don’t know who that is. Blaming others keeps us in victim mode. When we are empowered we ask the question “What is one small step I can take to change these institutional barriers?” and then just go do it. If we are not willing to be part of the solution we are part of the problem. Ask yourself that question. Here are some possible ways to be part of the solution:
- Start by believing in yourself. You are here to make an important difference. You have strengths and gifts that have been given to you to make that difference. You have a very important leadership purpose so find it and move purposely toward it.
- Help a woman leader believe in herself by letting her know what strengths you have observed in her. Encourage her to reach for her goals.
- Sponsor a woman by giving her access to powerful people and assignments in your organization.
- Partner up with a woman leader who you admire and ask whether she will be your accountability partner in helping you reach your goals and do the same for her.
- Start or sponsor a women’s mentoring circle in your organization or community (I’m going to be putting free resources on my website about how to do this soon – that’s my “Be the change you wish to see in the world” commitment).
These don’t take more time. They just take the right attitude in the time you have with someone.
3) What if we imagined a world where 250 of the Fortune 500 CEO’s were women? Instead of focusing on the barriers in front of us, how about we imagine what that world would look like? What would need to change? I’m writing a blog post about this and would welcome your contributions. So comment below and share your “250 Fortune 500 CEO” fantasy. Unless we imagine it, we cannot make it happen.
If this resonated for you, please comment, subscribe, and share with others.
Why I Don’t Want to be #1 – What keeps women from pursuing paths of power
Confessions of a Corporate Drop-Out – Why women opt out of corporate America
This article was written by Henna Inam, executive coach, speaker, and consultant. She works with women to help them realize their potential to be authentic, transformational leaders. They create organizations that drive breakthroughs in innovation, growth, and engagement. Her corporate clients include Coca Cola, UPS, Nestle, J&J, and others who know female leadership talent is good for business. To accelerate your own growth connect with her here. Connect on Twitter @hennainam