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.
Eboni K. Williams and Cheslie Kryst have a lot in common, as Iman Oubou Founder & CEO of SWAAY as well as host of the Women Who Swaay podcast puts it, "They're both badass attorneys, they're both from North Carolina and they've both competed in the Miss North Carolina USA pageants." And they also both took over our podcast on the most recent episode, straight from the headquarters of the Miss Universe Organization!
Cheslie is a successful licensed attorney who also happens to be the reigning Miss USA 2019, with plans to represent our country in the upcoming Miss Universe competition. Not only is she at the height of her pageant power, but she is using the notoriety to create positive change for all of the women in her life, much like her role model Eboni K. Williams. Williams is a journalist, author, attorney and speaker; from her long history as a pageant queen she has risen through the ranks of male dominated industries from law-firms to Fox News. All throughout her journey she has persevered with intelligence, tenacity and poise. Lucky enough for us, she has kindly put her reporting skills to use and got candid with Ms. Kryst about supporting their fellow women, the current state of race in America and their history together as pageant compatriots. All of these topics are incredibly close to their hearts as powerful black women using their influence to create a better future for all women in America.
Oh and, as previously stated, both are complete and utter badasses.
During their podcast takeover they talked about it all, from pageants to politics. It's clear that both of these women are motivated by an altruistic spirit and are strong supporters of #womensupportingwomen. Eboni even read a passage from her book, Pretty Powerful: Appearance, Substance, and Success, in which she outlines how her own career trajectory was so positively affected by the incredible women who mentored her in different stages of her life. She completely shuts down the idea of the "woman on woman teardown," calling it a "pitiful dynamic" tied to the "long and very hurtful history of women." This idea that in order to compete for a spot in the old boy's club, women must first fight off their own gender is not only reductive but it also supports an outdated social structure that was built to greatly favor male success. Throughout history women have been encouraged to look at one another as competition, one more obstacle to pass by. However, all that has managed to do is to pit us against each other, fighting for the few meager seats at the table allowed for women while we ignore the real problem. The problem isn't about the lack of seats allotted for women; the problem is that men are still the ones making the seating arrangements, and it's time for that to change, something that both Cheslie and Eboni understand well.
Race is another topic that is incredibly important to both of these women, and they have quite the in-depth discussion on it during this podcast. Cheslie, who is biracial and self-identifies as black, laid out her point of view on race. She voiced her frustrations for never feeling like she had her own box to tick, being stuck to decide between "black, white, or other" in standardized situations like the SATs. Existing as someone stuck between two cultures has been incredibly challenging, and though she found some solace in the black community, she felt less welcomed by her white peers. Self-identifying as black is something that has allowed her more agency in regards to her own identity, and though she still faces difficulties she realizes how important it is to be a confident black woman in the esteemed position she is currently in. Both Cheslie and Eboni seem to bond over the idea that no matter the successes, they both revel in the victories of their fellow women of color. Each of them is motivated to see more women of color in powerful, visible positions to inspire future generations. It's not about their own success; it's about respect and renown for any and all women of color.
I may have just provided the highlight reel, but the full conversation shared between Cheslie and Eboni on the Women Who Swaay podcast is a must listen. These two women managed to make me laugh while restoring hope for a better America all within a half hour of listening time! Seriously, go get those headphones, right now. You will not regret it.