Just 4.8% of this year’s Fortune 500 companies are led by female CEOs. This is a 25% drop from last year’s all-time high of 6.4%.
The drop is the result of several high-profile resignations, and it highlights the fact that there’s an insufficient pipeline of suitable female leaders at C level. CNN reports that in the history of the Fortune 500, a female-to-female CEO succession has only happened three times.
A 2017 report from the Korn Ferry Institute called Women CEOs Speak was funded by The Rockefeller Foundation, as part of its 100×25 initiative which aims to have 100 women leading Fortune 500 companies by 2025. The report’s authors surveyed 57 past and present female CEOs to identify common strengths and areas of development that companies should focus on to build robust pipelines of high-potential female leaders.
Two areas of the report drew our attention.
The first is that of the 57 women interviewed, only five always wanted to be CEO. The majority had not even considered becoming a CEO until someone explicitly told them they could do it.
The second is that far fewer women (40%) than men (56%) aspire to join the C-suite.
According to the authors, organizations that want to develop their pipeline of female leaders need to develop a culture that nurtures these women and puts them on equal footing by removing diversity-related obstacles and:
- Identifying high-potential leaders early
- Giving them carefully selected stretch assignments
- Developing creative family leave and re-entry programs
- Implementing formal and objective succession processes
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