In this article, Alexia Vernon provides actionable strategies for organisations to develop their next generation female leaders. Grounding her recommendations in research and real-world examples, she demystifies what holds women back from positioning themselves for senior leadership opportunities and what companies can do to ensure that qualified women do not leak out of their pipelines by making significant shifts in how they develop their high potential women.
While there is ample evidence that companies across industries and sectors do better when there are women in senior leadership positions, unfortunately in Europe, and even in the United States, the lack of female corporate leaders is staggering. Only 3% of the largest publicly listed companies in the EU have a female CEO, and only 7% have a female chairperson of the board. Across the Atlantic, in the US, women hold less than 5% of Fortune 500 CEO roles and comprise only 19% of board seats.
When discussing this lack of representation, the questions that often emerge are, not very surprisingly, Why are there not more women in senior leadership roles? As well as, How do we create more corporate female leaders?
When these questions are the focal point for inquiry, the answers that emerge are often: create more mentorship opportunities for mid-level women, address corporate pay inequity, or engage in more diverse corporate leadership recruitment to fill open senior positions. Rarely does the question I’m more interested in answering come up: Why do so many experienced, highly educated women not believe they are ready to lead?