Executive Suite

The Top Six Reasons Women Don’t Make It to the Executive Suite

The Top Six Reasons Women Don’t Make It to the Executive Suite
  1. They are not in “the book.”

Quite literally women don’t make it to the executive suite because they are not in “the book.”

Women’s names are missing in the succession planning book…the one that describes the plan for who succeeds who at the top level of an organization. Women are not in the executive recruiters’ little black book of people to know and they are not in the personal contact book of the existing residents of the executive suite.

This means that women are not even on the lists of people who are being considered for these roles.

Call it a visibility problem. Call it women working hard in the bowels of the business, with heads down, pencils up. Call it an aversion to networking or to staying at the work sponsored happy hour when there are family obligations at home. (See Forbes “Why Most Women Will Never Become CEO”)Whatever the reason…. Women are NOT known broadly enough, soon enough.

As important as that reason is, it is not the only reason. Not one reason but several important ones contribute to this paucity of women sitting in the big chairs…multiple reasons layered on top of each other and voila! we find ourselves with few women in the c- suite.

  1. There is a pipeline issue.

Women start strong. More women graduate from college than men. In fact 51% of the people seeking MBAs are women,

March forward a few years and the statistics turn. Only 14% of the S&P 500 executives are women….The Pipeline issue

So it’s more than a pipeline issue that causes so few women in the c-suite.

  1. There is a specialty issue.

Many women choose the wrong major or the wrong part of the business to work in to be considered for the C Suite. The majority of all CEOs come from the Finance or Operations part of the business. Women disproportionately find their way to staff positions like Human Resources or Marketing.

  1. There’s a WHO knows WHO issue.

Men are a tribal lot…And so are women, BTW. Nonetheless men are still more present in the executive suite than women. They recommend the people they know and trust for important positions and those are largely men.

A resistance to networking with a purpose is a big factor. Women, more than men, seem to dislike the idea of connecting to others for the purpose of furthering themselves in business.

It is likely that there are social costs for networking, such as putting one’s ambition out there that women experience that men do not. That leads us to the next reason.

  1. The issue of social pressure.

There is the traditional role of women that many of us find hard to shake. We struggle more with: what we should do, how we should look, knowing what the appropriate level of assertiveness is, how much ambition and self-confidence to display before it becomes the trifecta required for bitchiness.

Our role as mother and what a good mother does and doesn’t keeps many of us awake at night – not a problem for many men.

  1. Finally, there is the issue of sexism.

Not as overt as it once was, it’s still present…. The questions of a candidates suitability for a C Suite position is often cloaked in words about competency and experience, when a qualified woman is just seen differently than her male competitor – seen as less than.

Sometimes the deciders just believe the job should go to a man. See Fortune’s “Why So Few Women are CEOs.”

Looking Forward

While women are making strides in many lower rungs of the corporate ladder, the executive suite is still eluding us. We need to become Known, Get in the Pipeline, Choose the Right Majors and Career Path, Network MORE, Learn to Deal with the Social Pressure, and Overcome Sexism.

PRiME women need to mentor the young women coming up the ranks to insure more of them make it to the executive level than the women of our generation. We have a daunting challenge in front of us, but together we can and will overcome.

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