Women around the world are ready to break the glass ceiling that limits their development in the workplace. Despite this, women still face many obstacles on the path to achieving their professional goals. What is holding women back? Among other reasons, outdated barriers and beliefs continue to limit opportunities for development. Even though women are participating more within the workforce, only a small percentage of them make it to decision-making positions. Only 6% of Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs. It’s time for corporations to start increasing female representation in their top ranks.
Research on the subject was published recently by the Korn Ferry Institute. With the support of The Rockefeller Foundation’s 100x25 initiative, researchers interviewed 57 female CEO’s to find out what distinguished them.
Are there any specific attributes or professional experiences which helped them overcome all the existing barriers? Their key findings are food for thought; let me share some of them:
1. Female CEOs share a set of skills and values: when faced with situations that required risk taking and quick problem solving, every woman showed quick, courageous and resilient responses. Regardless of gender, these characteristics are key abilities any leader should possess.
2. Self-limiting beliefs still hold women back: According to the findings of the Women CEO’s Speak study, only 12% of the women knew beforehand that they wished to become CEOs. More than half had never considered they could attain the position until someone told them they could do it. We need to believe in ourselves and our talent. It’s vital to teach younger female generations to trust their intellectual capacity in order to fulfill their dreams. Our minds are the only barrier standing between us and success.
3. Greater representation in STEMS is crucial. More than 40% of women CEO’s interviewed in this study started out with college degrees in science, engineering and math. Successful careers in science and technology are still male-dominated fields. We need to encourage more women to consider science and technology as career choices. Gender should not define which path to take.
4. Challenges are growth opportunities: Interestingly, female CEOs didn’t dread difficult or unpredictable assignments. In fact, they leaned towards managing challenging tasks. The double burden many working women face when they become mothers did not stand in their way of success. Nine out of 10 CEO’s had children and they were convinced that becoming a mother enhanced their abilities as executive leaders. They stated that motherhood gave them a sense of perspective, it developed patience and compassion, and it strengthened their ability to set boundaries and clear expectations.
5. Female leaders have an inclusive, sustainable leadership style. Women CEOs tend to highly value other’s contributions. Moreover, women showed to lead confidently yet in a humble manner. They showed to be strongly motivated by a sense of purpose by making asignificant positive impact in the world.
Undoubtedly, female CEO’s possess the necessary traits for today’s ever-changing environments. They have proven to have a sense of purpose as well as confident leading styles that don’t tremble while facing challenges. Breaking the glass ceiling is not only vital for women, but for society. Women bring to the table a strong desire towards shaping a positive, sustainable corporate culture. Definitively, here are major benefits gained in the corporate world through the empowerment of women.
Angélica Fuentes, Founder Equal Invest
Angélica Fuentes is a Latin American businesswoman and impact investor, who has been recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of Mexico’s most influential women.
Ms. Fuentes was appointed CEO of Grupo Imperial in 1992 and quickly positioned the company as a top player in Northern Mexico’s energy sector. Under her leadership, Grupo Imperial’s annual growth rate increased from 5% in 1992 to 9.5% in 2005. Ms. Fuentes served as President of the Business Energy Network of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Agreement (APEC) from 2002 to 2004, and as President of the Mexican Natural Gas Association from 1996 to 2000. From 2007 to 2015, she served as CEO of Grupo Omnilife-Angelissima-Chivas. Under her leadership, the company became one of the top 100 corporations in Mexico.
Throughout her career, Ms. Fuentes has dedicated significant time and resources to NGOs, international organizations and professional groups that support the cause of women. She participated in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Parity Programme, and led the Mexican Gender Parity Taskforce. She currently serves on Secretary Clinton’s International Council on Women’s Business Leadership; is member of the Private Sector Leadership Advisory Council of UN Women; is a Global Advocate for the Girl Up Campaign, a United Nations Foundation program; co-chairs the PVBLIC LATAM regional platform; is member of the Latin American Program Advisory Board of the Woodrow Wilson International Center; and is member of the Global Dignity’s International Council of Advisors.
Her work in this field has been recognized by numerous honors and awards. In 2015, UN Women gave her the Women’s Empowerment Principles CEO Leadership Award; she was the first female CEO to receive this award for championing gender equality in the private sector. In 2016, PVBLIC Foundation, Ismael Cala Foundation, and the United Nations gave her the award for Latin Woman Empowerment. In 2017, she received the Corporate Social Responsibility Award from The Maestro Cares Foundation.
Gender equality, women empowerment and the eradication of poverty have always been a priority in all her endeavors. In 2014, she established the Angelica Fuentes Foundation. In 2016, she founded A Complete and The Imperative Fund. In 2017, she founded Equal Invest, The Beauty Station and A Complete Journey.