According to an analysis from the Associated Press, the median pay package for women CEOs was $12.7 million last year, higher than the $11.2 million median for their male CEO counterparts. But overall, only 19 of the 340 companies analyzed had a CEO who was a woman.
I find this to be unfortunate, but not entirely surprising, considering the numerous difficulties women can face when working to reach the C-suite level. I’ve come to learn that women who reach executive or CEO status often exhibit certain behaviors or share experiences that were fundamental in their triumph over career challenges.
These key traits shared among many of the world’s most successful businesswomen can serve as a valuable guide to women who wish to become CEOS. I’ve presented examples of these tips and traits below and how they may apply to real life scenarios.
1. Develop connections
A female software engineer possesses a robust skill set in advanced programming languages and has worked with some of the most notable names in tech. But those impressive skills and experience are only going so far in helping her climb the industry ladder.
Building connections, both within a company and industry at large, can help a woman advance beyond her own role. If a senior-level position opens up within her company or elsewhere, a woman can leverage those connections to have a stronger chance at landing that position than if she were relying just on skills and experience alone.
2. Network even when you don’t need to
A woman is currently happy with her managerial post at a top media company. She believes a promotion and a raise are coming her way in the next few years, and that there’s really no need to attend networking events or reach out to others in her industry. But a common fallacy among professionals is that networking is only useful when a person needs something, such as trying to get an interview for a job.
Networking is something that should be done even when there isn’t some ultimate goal in mind. Reaching out to new industry contacts and checking in with them from time-to-time can help develop relationships that may prove beneficial to a woman’s career further down the road.
3. Overcome imposter syndrome and perform as if you’re already a CEO
Even after graduating at the top of her class, landing a prestigious position at a top consulting firm, and receiving frequent praise from her superiors, a woman is still battling imposter syndrome. This is that nagging voice in the back of a professional’s head that says “you aren’t good enough,” despite all evidence to the contrary. For this woman who already has to face workplace challenges like gender discrimination or lack of advancement opportunities, imposter syndrome can be a significant career threat.
Women who perform as if they’re already at a CEO level can help overcome the challenges of imposter syndrome. This can include becoming an expert on certain subject matters within the company and developing relationships beyond their own team.
4. Establish yourself as an expert
A woman has become a data and analytics pioneer within her current company, where colleagues are constantly asking her for advice and recommendations. For this woman, she can successfully transform her expertise about data and analytics into intellectual property that reaches wider audiences and raises her own profile.
This can include speaking at conferences and trade shows, writing books or blog posts, and any way a woman may be able to translate her unique knowledge so it can be consumed by a larger population. Additionally, this provides an ancillary income stream which could benefit a woman in her future career endeavors.
5. Determine if your company or industry is going downhill
Have there been hundreds of layoffs across an industry in a short amount of time? Have there been no significant promotions or advancement opportunities in a company for the past few years?
These can be signs that a woman’s particular company or industry is in decline and that it may be better to look for opportunities elsewhere. Staying on top of industry trends and paying attention to the health of a company can help a woman stop her career path from becoming obstructed. Becoming an executive or CEO doesn’t mean much if that company itself may not survive.
6. Strategically plan for the present and future
A woman is offered two jobs. The first is a role very similar to her own but at a more prestigious company that offers higher pay. The second is a managerial position with more expanded responsibilities within her current company but offers a smaller salary than the first opportunity.
The woman may benefit from the higher pay right now, but the managerial experience may be more valuable in the future. Getting a foot into the door of the more prestigious company might prove beneficial long-term versus the limited growth she may experience within the current company. There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer to which job the woman should take, but it is important that she strategically plan for the present and the future when considering both options.
7. Be a leader who carries themselves with confidence
Developing a strong network and obtaining valuable skills have helped a woman reach CEO status at an investment firm. But what pushed her employees to trust her guidance was that she acted as a leader that carried herself with confidence.
Being able to converse with all levels in a company and persuasively, believing in oneself and ability to succeed are crucial to reaching the CEO level. Knowing how to delegate tasks and push others towards success, and acting as a leader that inspires passion among team members, will help a woman not only achieve executive status but thrive when they climb to that level.
Nicole Antoinette Smith is a full-time Assistant Professor of Instruction at Ohio University in the College of Business as well as a contributing writer for the Online Master’s in Business Analytics Blog, teaching data analytics, information systems, and project management courses. She specializes in data strategy, strategic planning, process improvement, program development, and project management. Nicole Antoinette provides management consulting services under her company (Nicole Antoinette Consulting) using seven proprietary business methodologies, including her trademarked data strategy methodology, dataFonomics®.