It's not news that the percentage of women taking over the C-suite in America is crawling along. A vast majority of women and men concur that gender does not play a role in one's ability to lead a business. But there's one glaring reason that that simply is not the case, and it's the burden of biology.
Which baby do you nurture?
Men simply are not burdened by this dilemma. Women, on the other hand, conceive, carry and give birth to children. Women's reproductive window slams shut at the most crucial productive years for building a career. Not to say that women cannot have both – rewarding careers and children – just that, at the ages between mid-twenties and early-forties, it is very difficult to be simultaneously career-focused and successful at child-rearing.
Men working tirelessly on their career aspirations have their partner's unquestioned support. Maybe the day will arrive when scientists figure out a way to safely and effectively freeze eggs so that they are as good as sperm, made fresh on a daily basis. Until then, the great neutralizer of women and men being able to compete on a level playing field will remain on hold. Understandably, few women are reaching the upper echelons of corporate leadership.
Reaching the elusive pinnacle
Few women ascend to the top. Approximately only 25 companies in the Fortune 500 are run by women. 20 years ago, there were no female CEOs in the Fortune 500. Since then, women have only made slight progress in obtaining those authoritative roles.
The low number of female CEOs in the Fortune 500 may be due to gender stereotypes that pervade the workplace.
Pew's survey found that 34% of the respondents believed that male executives are better than women at assessing risk. According to a study conducted by Pew Research Center, a significant portion thought that men would do a better job at leading technology, finance, oil and gas companies. Approximately four in ten Americans point to a double standard for women seeking to climb to the highest levels of politics or business, where they must do more than their male counterparts to prove themselves.
Perceptions in political leadership...
Women are also more likely than men to say that female leaders in both politics and business outperform male leaders on most of the characteristics tested in the survey. The gender gaps in perceptions about political leadership are especially apparent. On traits like compromise, honesty, backbone, persuasion or working for the benefit of all Americans, women are more likely than men to say female leaders do a better job.
A solid majority of men state there aren't major differences between men and women in these areas. Nonetheless, they are somewhat more likely than women to give a nod to male leaders over female leaders on four of the five political leadership qualities tested in the poll.
Perhaps the answer lies in the gradual realization that equality is our destiny, and that corporate America has to come up with a viable solution that allows 50% of its talent pool to compete for 50% of its leadership positions – a strategy that would substantially improve our position in the global economy.
Did You Know?
- Male CEOs receive an average of $4,438,366.90 more in company compensation than female CEOs do.
- On average, women had more positions prior to their current role - 11 for women and 9 for men.
- Only 54 female CEOs feature in the top 1,000 highest-earning US companies in 2017. In 2014, there were 51 - that's a measly increase of three more female CEOs in three years.
- There are only three female CEOs in the top 50: Mary Barra (General Motors), Indra K. Nooyi (PepsiCo), and Virginia Rometty (IBM).
- Both male and female CEOs obtained their current executive position at the average age of 51.
- The top 54 companies run by male CEOs rank 480 places higher on average than those run by women - 29 for men, compared to 509 for women.
- Both genders had a heavy representation of MBA degrees, with 25 of the women and 21 of the men holding one. Outside of MBAs, engineering degrees were the most popular - 10 women touted them, and 13 men did.
In 2016, I finally found my voice. I always thought I had one, especially as a business owner and mother of two vocal toddlers, but I had been wrong.
For more than 30 years, I had been struggling with the fear of being my true self and speaking my truth. Then the repressed memories of my childhood sexual abuse unraveled before me while raising my 3-year-old daughter, and my life has not been the same since.
Believe it or not, I am happy about that.
The journey for a survivor like me to feel even slightly comfortable sharing these words, without fear of being shamed or looked down upon, is a long and often lonely one. For all of the people out there in the shadows who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I dedicate this to you. You might never come out to talk about it and that's okay, but I am going to do so here and I hope that in doing so, I will open people's eyes to the long-term effects of abuse. As a survivor who is now fully conscious of her abuse, I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, quite frankly, it may never go away.
It took me some time to accept that and I refuse to let it stop me from thriving in life; therefore, I strive to manage it (as do many others with PTSD) through various strategies I've learned and continue to learn through personal and group therapy. Over the years, various things have triggered my repressed memories and emotions of my abuse--from going to birthday parties and attending preschool tours to the Kavanaugh hearing and most recently, the"Leaving Neverland" documentary (I did not watch the latter, but read commentary about it).
These triggers often cause panic attacks. I was angry when I read Barbara Streisand's comments about the men who accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them, as detailed in the documentary. She was quoted as saying, "They both married and they both have children, so it didn't kill them." She later apologized for her comments. I was frustrated when one of the senators questioning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (during the Kavanaugh hearing) responded snidely that Dr. Ford was still able to get her Ph.D. after her alleged assault--as if to imply she must be lying because she gained success in life.We survivors are screaming to the world, "You just don't get it!" So let me explain: It takes a great amount of resilience and fortitude to walk out into society every day knowing that at any moment an image, a sound, a color, a smell, or a child crying could ignite fear in us that brings us back to that moment of abuse, causing a chemical reaction that results in a panic attack.
So yes, despite enduring and repressing those awful moments in my early life during which I didn't understand what was happening to me or why, decades later I did get married; I did become a parent; I did start a business that I continue to run today; and I am still learning to navigate this "new normal." These milestones do not erase the trauma that I experienced. Society needs to open their eyes and realize that any triumph after something as ghastly as childhood abuse should be celebrated, not looked upon as evidence that perhaps the trauma "never happened" or "wasn't that bad. "When a survivor is speaking out about what happened to them, they are asking the world to join them on their journey to heal. We need love, we need to feel safe and we need society to learn the signs of abuse and how to prevent it so that we can protect the 1 out of 10 children who are being abused by the age of 18. When I state this statistic at events or in large groups, I often have at least one person come up to me after and confide that they too are a survivor and have kept it a secret. My vehicle for speaking out was through the novella The Survivors Club, which is the inspiration behind a TV pilot that my co-creator and I are pitching as a supernatural, mind-bending TV series. Acknowledging my abuse has empowered me to speak up on behalf of innocent children who do not have a voice and the adult survivors who are silent.
Remembering has helped me further understand my young adult challenges,past risky relationships, anger issues, buried fears, and my anxieties. I am determined to thrive and not hide behind these negative things as they have molded me into the strong person I am today.Here is my advice to those who wonder how to best support survivors of sexual abuse:Ask how we need support: Many survivors have a tough exterior, which means the people around them assume they never need help--we tend to be the caregivers for our friends and families. Learning to be vulnerable was new for me, so I realized I needed a check-off list of what loved ones should ask me afterI had a panic attack.
The list had questions like: "Do you need a hug," "How are you feeling," "Do you need time alone."Be patient with our PTSD". Family and close ones tend to ask when will the PTSD go away. It isn't a cold or a disease that requires a finite amount of drugs or treatment. There's no pill to make it miraculously disappear, but therapy helps manage it and some therapies have been known to help it go away. Mental Health America has a wealth of information on PTSD that can help you and survivors understand it better. Have compassion: When I was with friends at a preschool tour to learn more about its summer camp, I almost fainted because I couldn't stop worrying about my kids being around new teenagers and staff that might watch them go the bathroom or put on their bathing suit. After the tour, my friends said,"Nubia, you don't have to put your kids in this camp. They will be happy doing other things this summer."
In that moment, I realized how lucky I was to have friends who understood what I was going through and supported me. They showed me love and compassion, which made me feel safe and not judged.