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  • Kelli Sue Pettigrew

My Thoughts on the Fast Company Article on the Demise of Women CEOs

I just finished reading Fast Company's article on the demise of the career life expectancy of Women CEOs (see article at written by Stephanie Vozza.

There are a lot of statistics cited in the article and some powerful women in business referenced such as Carly Fiorina (former HP CEO and Mary Barra (CEO - General Motors) . I'm fairly confident this article will spark conversation among women in leadership roles everywhere but here are the interesting take-aways (and hopefully positive spin) from my perspective on the subject:

1. Line Leadership is still the best path to the C-suite. Companies may need to rotate more women into leadership roles, but the best path for consideration continues to be by placing yourself in a position where you have a direct contribution to the company's profits. Staff positions are a less likely route due to the lack of documentable impact on the revenue growth or bottom line achievement of the organization. If you are in a staff position, consider getting outside your comfort zone if you have executive aspirations.

2. The Most Likely Path to Growth Still Comes from Within. Vozza states that 78% of men who became CEOs from 2004-2013 were company insiders (compared to 65% of women). Either way, stability matters. There is a growing trend among younger women to move positions or companies more frequently in search of the "perfect opportunity". The statistics suggest that staying put and "paying your dues" could reap bigger dividends in the long run.

3. Women are perceived to have transferable Turnaround Skillsets. Let's face it, women are generally perceived to be fairly organized and multi-tasking. Most businesses in need of a turnaround require a leader with the ability to have strong organizational skills, multi-task, and make smart, quick, informed decisions. It is my belief that the women I know excel in these areas. Whether by nature or nuture, we seem to be a species that can get the job done when things are in the beginning of a chaos state. If you've ever served on a committee or shepherded a little league parent's group, I would argue it is highly likely that there is a mother/woman who gets the ball rolling toward the goal line of what needs to be accomplished. We, as women, need to know how to take those transferable skillsets and market them to showcase our natural abilities. I happen to believe there are strong trails such as Imagination, Inspiration, Ablity to Innovate and General business acumen and Intelligence that most women leaders I know (present company included) can bring to an organization that outpace what our male counterparts have to offer. This unique blend of transferable skillsets can be your calling card.

4. Focus on Results - Not Gender. At the end of the day, a business lives or dies based on the outcome of the business results. There are some very successful women who I look up to and admire such as Angela Ahrendts, former Burberry CEO from 2006-2014 and fellow Indianapolis area native who is being touted just today for her outstanding accomplishments since making the move to Apple (see Apple is placing a $68Mil bet on Angela's ablity to deliver and my bet is on her to do just that. After all, Burberry saw 2x return in sales and 3x return in stock price under her leadership. Lastly, let's not forget my favorite female leader of all time - the esteemed Pat Summitt. Pat's book (Sum It Up: A Thousand and Ninety-Eight Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective - written by Pat Summit and Sally Jenkins) chronicles Pat's amazing career as head of the University of Tennesse's womens basketball program. The title alone should give you a clue to the inner-workings of Pat's amazing attitude and dedication to results that made her, in my opinion, the greatest coach and woman in sports of all time. Want to look at a results oriented leader? Look at Debbie Scoppechio, the former CEO and current Chairman of the Board of Creative Alliance, one of the nation's most celebrated advertising agencies, headquartered in Louisville, KY. Debbie started Creative Alliance with one client and has grown the business to a $150 mil enterprise and national contender. She is tough as nails and brilliant in the boardroom. And last but not least, my classmate and friend, Erin Hunter, head of Global CPG Strategy at Facebook - a recognized CPG expert in her own right.

In closing, I would like to say I have a more well-rounded view of what the future of women like me who are potential CEO candidates have to offer in today's business climate and how we can react to the stigma that may/may not exist in the business community today and take a lesson from successful women like Angela, Pat, Debbie and Carly who broke the glass ceiling in the first place.


#womeninleadership #angelaahrendts #debbiescoppechio #creativealliance #erinhunter #facebook #fastcompany #carlyfiorina #patsummit #amazingwomen #ceo #stephanievozza #womenhelpingwomen #leadbyexample #positiveattitude

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