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Progress for Female CEOs?

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2012 represents a highwater mark for female CEOs among the Fortune 500.  For the first time in history, 18 of the Fortune 500 corporations are headed by women.  This however, only relates to 3.6% of all CEO jobs at the world’s largest firms.  This blog has consistently highlighted the lack of diversity amongst corporate leadership maintaining that effective corporate governance increases when diversity is present amongst corporate leaders.

Female CEOs are weighing in on why the paucity of female leadership continues and how a woman can target and achieve leadership goals in corporate America.  Heather Bresch, the CEO of Mylan Pharmaceuticals believes that a strong work ethic remains the most critical element. “‘I had a very strong work ethic,’ adds Heather Bresch, CEO of Mylan ‘and was willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. There is
simply no substitute for hard work when it comes to achieving success.’”  Further, when detailing how best to deal with obstacles including gender bias, Bresch continues:  “‘My experiences with gender bias are probably the norm,’ says Ms. Bresch
of Mylan. ‘What I found was that expectations of women were simply
lower, and this resulted in being overlooked for certain opportunities.
Now as a leader, I strive to create an environment different than the
one I faced, an environment where good ideas can come from anyone—young,
old, men, women, assistant, executive—and opportunities are open to

Additionally, Maggie Wilderotter, CEO of Frontier Communications also observes in the Wall Street Journal, that “[u]nless you’re delivering
value, there is no right to move forward. I do disagree that all is fair
in the workplace. . . . Men selectively listen,’ Ms.
Wilderotter says. She recalls making points in boardrooms, then watching
the group take note of a male later saying the same thing. ‘When that
happened, I’d stop the conversation and say, ‘Do you realize I said that
10 minutes ago?’ Women have to take responsibility for the dynamic
around them; you can’t just say ‘Woe is me.’”

While obstacles remain, including gender bias, the good old boys network, and stereotyping, amongst others women are making progress in the boardroom, albeit slowly.  With 18 female CEOs showing the way, perhaps a sea change is under way.


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