Six percent. That’s the number of Fortune 1000 CEOs who are women in 2017.
Even though I know all too well the challenges facing women who strive to reach the peak level of leadership, seeing that figure in black and white startled me. And while it’s the highest percentage of female CEOs, ever, we have to do better, faster.
So when I was asked to participate in a research project with the Korn Ferry Institute to explore what common qualities and experiences drive women CEOs, and develop a stronger pipeline of female leaders, I jumped at the chance. This groundbreaking study was supported by a grant from The Rockefeller Foundation as part of its 100×25 initiative, which aims for 100 of the Fortune 500 to be led by female CEOs by 2025.
I was one of 57 current and former women CEOs involved in the study. We took part in meticulous interviews about defining experiences in our careers and personal lives, and completed an assessment on key personality traits—all to answer the question: “How’d we do it?” And did we share any commonalities that helped us reach the 6 percent?
Here’s what they found:
Now that we’ve found clear, consistent success factors among female CEOs, how do we use this information to open the doors for more? Korn Ferry suggests some steps companies can take to create and sustain a pipeline of talented, capable candidates:
For me, becoming CEO wasn’t something I set out to be—not by a long shot. But as I navigated my career, I was exposed to all the core functions in homebuilding that eventually made me a good fit for the top job. I took the time and seized every opportunity, to know the business—a business I care about deeply—inside and out. And I had amazing mentors who believed in me.
I’ve said before how I never wanted to play “the woman card” in my career—that I wanted to credit my hard work and skill for getting me where I am. So for a long time, I downplayed my identity as a female CEO. But then I got a wake-up call about the very real need for women leaders to step up and encourage other women who aspire to leadership positions. I began to recognize that acknowledging my unique perspective as a woman didn’t diminish my success—just the opposite, in fact.
As I’ve shared more about my experience, and connected with like-minded women, I’ve felt empowered and fulfilled. And at this stage in my career, helping to usher in the next generation of women leaders, not only at Taylor Morrison—where 30 percent of our leaders are female as well as about 50 percent of our workforce—but in homebuilding and across industries, is something worth making time for.
Thanks to this study, we know just how far a little encouragement can take us. It’s my sincere hope that when it’s 2025, 6 percent will be a distant memory.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Are you surprised by the study? Do you think 100 female CEOs in the Fortune 500 is achievable by 2025?
This story originally ran on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/6-percent-how-get-more-women-top-sheryl-palmer/