Women have become more prominent in the business world than ever before. A Gallup survey revealed that a full 45 percent of women “say they would like CEO or senior management positions.”
The stats show that women don’t just want to be leaders — when given the opportunity, they prove to be extremely effective. Another study found that “women-led companies earned investors a 340 percent return, compared to an S&P 500 benchmark of 122 percent.” In other words, women deliver results.
Despite this desire for leadership and the clear benefits that a female CEO can provide, there is still a lot of work to do. In fact, it’s estimated that only 6 percent of S&P 500 companies have a female CEO.
So how is this going to change?
The answer, of course, comes from the women who have already achieved success in the business world. Many of these women are already aware of the goals and desires of their peers, and are taking initiative to help other women in their footsteps. Here’s how today’s female CEOs are blazing a trail for others to follow.
Many of the business world’s biggest changes will come from the rising generation. Millennials (and even members of Generation Z now entering the workforce) are known for their socially conscious behavior and desire to make a positive change in the world. At the same time, the unique global economy is creating many challenges.
Because of this, many female CEOs have placed great emphasis by providing mentoring and other support to women still in high school and college. Sabah Ismail Al-Haidoos, CEO of Silatech, notes that her company’s goal is to “empower youth to advance their communities in line with sustainable development goals, and the strategies of their respective governments.”
Young girls are looking for ways to make a positive difference in the world. Finding ways to connect to their interests and provide mentorship opportunities ultimately benefits both the youth and their communities. By creating initiatives that better prepare young women to enter the workforce, they will have the skills and support needed to start their career off on the right foot.
What we see in the world around us has a direct impact on our unconscious biases. Because of this, it is essential that female CEOs share their successes and experiences. Visibility is crucial for changing misconceptions about what women can or can’t do in the business world.
Brigid Schulte of Better Life Lab at New America, explained that even the makeup of “expert panels” can affect our perceptions of women and leadership. “If you have only people in positions of authority who are to all the world perceived as experts, and if they are all men, what does that tell you? That men are the experts, that men know everything, and women are somehow on the sidelines, somehow less important.”
If other women don’t see the success stories of female CEOs and entrepreneurs, they are unlikely to believe that such opportunities are possible for them. However, the opposite is also true. As Stephania Varalli, Co-CEO of Women of Influence explains, “Seeing is believing. When you see someone that is like you achieve a goal, it becomes much easier to believe that the same successful path is possible for you, too.”
Women CEOs shouldn’t be afraid to share their story, to tell others how they got to where they are today. These stories are often what makes the biggest difference in inspiring future leaders.
Even when they see the success of other women CEOs, many women feel they don’t have these opportunities for advancement themselves. Whether this is due to a rigid corporate structure or a lack of resources for improving skills and advancing their career, far too many women find themselves stuck in positions that seemingly offer little chance for promotion.
As such, female CEOs need to be actively invested in creating opportunities for other women.
As Shama Hyder, founder and CEO of Marketing Zen Group explains, “It takes more than just showing up to work every day to help other women see themselves in the role [of CEO] … we must take an active role in supporting that vision. During performance reviews or feedback sessions with your promising female employees, ask them if they aspire to the C-suite. If they do, ask how you can help them get there.”
For many female CEOs, this means taking actively mentoring and supporting other women working within their organization. From providing access to leadership development classes and conventions to participating in business support networks, female CEOs should be constantly engaged in giving other women the tools they need to succeed.
While challenges still remain, the passionate work of today’s female leadership is already creating new opportunities for aspiring businesswomen. As support organizations and mentorships expand their reach even further, more women will be given the resources they need to advance their careers and bring their insights to executive leadership.