By David Kiger
When looking at CEOs at successful firms across the country, one thing easily leaps out: the small number of women leading the charge. Though there are certainly major success stories — Mary Barra of General Motors, Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo and Marillyn Hewson of Lockheed Martin, for instance — the numbers are stark.
Of the businesses included on the Fortune 500 list last year, 21 companies have a woman CEO. That’s down from 24 in 2015. As Fortune’s Valentina Zarya puts it, “… To look at it another way, women now hold a paltry 4.2 percent of CEO positions in America’s 500 biggest companies.”
Clearly there are challenges here. One positive note is that there is an abundance of advice from women business leaders on steps to take to reach the corner office. Here are several examples of those leadership recommendations.
Sales management experience can be key
CEOs rise from all different areas of business. The skills that can be developed from the sales field may provide an extra boost in seeking a top-level promotion. In a story for The Huffington Post, Sharon Rowlands, CEO of California marketing company ReachLocal, writes that it’s important to manage a sales team “at least once in your career.”
“Sales is truly where the rubber meets the road, and performance is assessed more purely and cleanly than in any other management role,” she says. “In sales, you quickly learn if you have what it takes — or not. You hit your quota or you don’t. As a sales leader you’re doubly accountable for those measures because you’re responsible for ensuring your entire sales force meets their goals as well. In short order, you must learn to hire the right people and help them develop their skills, to set goals and to appraise people correctly. If you don’t develop those talents you won’t succeed.”
Just as Rowlands recommends tackling sales at some point in a CEO career path, other areas that may not be “comfort zones” can be beneficial. If the aspiring CEO has less experience in one side of a business, the knowledge that can be gained expands the repertoire, and could pay dividends down the line. In a story for Business News Daily, Nicole Fallon Taylor describes the journey of Angie Hicks of Angie’s List, noting that she was “an introverted college graduate with aspirations of being an actuary when she was approached about starting the now-national customer-review service.” Hicks, who says she was “really shy and quiet” in the story, dove into door-to-door sales, which she says was “the last thing I ever thought I would do.” As Taylor writes, Hicks “urges entrepreneurs to take that leap.”
“Don’t miss out on opportunities that come your way,” Hicks says. “Put yourself in a position to have those opportunities, know when one is facing you and take it.”
Alison Brittain, CEO of Whitbread in London, was ranked in Fortune’s 50 Most Powerful Women International list in 2016. She acknowledges the challenges for women CEOs in a story Go to the full article.