Globally, there are few women who occupy the position of CEO. Many end their careers in middle-level management. Does this indicate that women lack ambition to excel as CEOs? Or is it evidence of a glass ceiling that prevent women from reaching the top positions? Are there any hidden reasons? Let us address this global challenge from multiple perspectives.

Although leadership skills are not gender-specific, we find only a few women leaders globally due to cultural, religious, social and other factors. Although many men talk of women empowerment, it remains only in the letter, not in the spirit. The good news is that women are now breaking the glass ceiling and excelling globally to carve a niche for themselves. Despite constraints, women are proving that their credentials and capabilities are on par with men’s.

Businesses can improve if they encourage women to lead, as they can bring a lot of value to the table to improve organizational bottom lines. There is a strong perception that men are promoted due to potential, while women are promoted due to performance. Leadership tends to be synonymous with men, not women. Hence, we must shift our attitudes and perceptions of leadership and women. Both men and women leaders are two sides of the same coin, and the coin is incomplete without both sides. Hence, leadership is incomplete without the active participation of women leaders.

To be successful leaders, women and men must have high energy, grit, ego-strength, high stress tolerance, and the ability to bounce back from failures with tenacity and resilience. Here are some more qualities that are essential: strategic vision, continuous learning, adaptability, building connections, balancing stakeholders, engaging employees and managing VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity).

Here are some strategies to build women leaders globally.

  • Identify potential leaders early to keep them in the pipeline.
  • Build the ladder for their leadership development.
  • Create a conducive environment to enable them to fast-track their career.
  • Encourage them to pursue leadership positions.
  • Help them develop emotional intelligence.
  • Emphasize building credibility first and enhancing visibility next.
  • Encourage them to build their personal and professional brands to stand out.
  • Remove the prevailing approach where men are promoted due to potential while women are promoted due to performance.
  • Adopt an integrated approach that ensures coordinated efforts from all stakeholders, including organizations, women’s associations, non-governmental organizations and government.

It is a well-known fact that the organizations with high proportions of senior women leaders deliver stronger financial results. Global organizations including IBM, Apple, Facebook, Deloitte, Chevron, Coca-Cola and Bank of America emphasize the importance of women leaders, and some of them have committed to grooming women to become executives. It is a step in the right direction. More global companies must come forward to empower women to build a better corporate world.

Routes to the Corner Office

Women need coaches and mentors to shape their careers, and the onus lies with organizations to engage passionate coaches and mentors to groom them. Additionally, women must be ready to shoulder challenging roles and responsibilities.

Remember that the race to top leadership slots is not easy. Seize opportunities to help women break the glass ceiling.

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