Lady Business: New Female CEOs, Coming Right Up

infographic with information about female CEOs. The data is explained in the text below.

Maybe it’s a feminism/womanism thing, but I really love it when women win.

My definition, of course, is subjective. Winning to me means having a job that utilizes the bulk of my skills, talent, and energy. I think the idea of a dream job is exactly that—a great idea.

But barring that in a weird economy, where women ten years my junior will be favored over me because they are less expensive, I have pretty low expectations for how to win in a corporate environment. So I looked at the Wall Street Journal story about a growing number of chief executive officer hopefuls at the end of April with a little bit of skepticism:

The ranks of female chief executives remain thin, with women in the top spot at just 35 Fortune 1000 companies. But the pipeline is promising, says Maggie Wilderotter, CEO of Frontier Communications Corp., adding that she has noticed a number of “women in waiting” at Xerox Corp. and Procter & Gamble Co., where she is a board member.

She adds that she wouldn’t be surprised if the number of major-company female CEOs doubled by 2017. At her own employer, a diversified telecom firm, half of Ms. Wilderotter’s six direct reports are women.

“If you want a CEO role, you have to prepare for it with a vengeance,” says Denise Morrison, chief of Campbell Soup Co. and Ms. Wilderotter’s sister…

Nearly 73% of Fortune 500 companies now have at least one female executive officer, though women comprise just 14% of executive officers, according to Catalyst, a New York research group.

In good news for the pipeline, a study conducted by McKinsey & Co. for The Wall Street Journal, to be released Monday, found that 24% of senior vice presidents at 58 big companies are now women.

It’s easy to get pessimistic when you would love to see women treated equally in the workplace and the bar is set so that we catch up to men, not even with the hopes to surpass them. Even though women were 14.1 percent of executive officer positions at Fortune 500 companies in 2011, they’re still only 7.5 percent of the top earners.

I thought this might have something to do with the stories about women opting out of less life-friendly work, though bloggers at the Glass Hammer say that opt-out thing is “so 15 years ago.”

Well, okay. But the first thing I think of when people start talking smack about women and whether they should or shouldn’t pursue the corner office is precisely what Jezebel pointed out in a post about about these CEOs and the places where they work:

…it seems that none of this could have been made possible without some shifting of gender expectations within families, because the gauntlet anyone has to run through in order to advance to the top of a Fortune 1000 company is so demanding that it would be nearly impossible for someone to take care of children without help from a spouse. Case in point: nine of the Journal’s picks for potential future CEO’s have children, but many of those women have husbands who were willing to abandon their careers in order to support their wives’ ambitions—basically, someone has to stay home or work a totally nontraditional schedule in order for this to work. This makes perfect, depressing sense in light of the fact that the US is still one of the only industrialized nations in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave, and companies that require rigid adherence to a schedule and don’t allow telecommuting make it hard on mothers who are trying to balance family and career.

What factors do you think are affecting the numbers of female CEOs? What still needs to change?

Previously: How Do You Navigate Boys Club Culture?, Motherhood and Debt

by Joshunda Sanders
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Joshunda Sanders is a Bronx native and the author of four books including two published last year, All City, a novella, and a memoir, The Beautiful Darkness: A Handbook for Orphans. She lives in New York City.

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