Six Key Insights On What Makes Women CEOs Different?

Their ranks are still far below what they should be, and change continues to come slowly. But a landmark study by Korn Ferry has pinpointed the critical traits that are landing women in the rarified world of becoming a CEO.

According to the study, women CEOs are slightly older than their male counterparts, in part because it takes them 30% longer than men to reach the corner office. But those who reached the top were often committed to making profound changes at their organizations.

In all, six key insights emerged with surprising consistency across all the women CEOs who participated in the study:
Six Key Insights On What Makes Women CEOs Different?
Six Key Insights On What Makes Women CEOs Different?

1. These CEOs worked harder and longer to get to the top. The women CEOs were an average of four years older than their male counterparts and worked in a slightly greater number of roles, functions, companies, and industries.

2. They were driven by both a sense of purpose and achieving business results. More than two-thirds of the women interviewed and assessed said they were motivated by a sense of purpose and their belief that their company could have a positive impact on the community, employees, and the world around them. Nearly a quarter pointed to creating a positive culture as one of their proudest accomplishments.

3. Differentiating traits sustained the women’s success on the road to CEO. Defining traits and competencies that emerged time and again in the research included courage, risk-taking, resilience, agility, and managing ambiguity.

4. They were more likely to engage the power of teams. Scoring significantly higher than the benchmark group on humility—indicative of a consistent lack of self-promotion, an expressed appreciation for others, and a tendency to share the credit—the women CEOs were more likely to leverage others to achieve desired results.

5. Despite the evident potential, the women didn’t generally set their sights on becoming CEO. Two-thirds of the women said they never realized they could become CEO until a boss or mentor encouraged them, and instead focused on hitting business targets and seeking new challenges rather than on their personal career advancement.

6. The women shared STEM and financial backgrounds that served as a springboard. Early in their careers, nearly 60% of the women had demonstrable expertise in either STEM (40%) or business/finance/economics (19%)—all fields where they could prove themselves with precise, definable outcomes, and also crucial to the success of the business.

The research report recommends clear steps that companies can take to accelerate and maintain a steady supply of women CEO candidates, including early identification of high-potential talent and communicating opportunities in terms that play to women’s strengths and engage specific drivers.

Mentors also play an indispensable role, affirming potential to encourage more women to strive to become CEOs and, later on, sponsors can actively help advance women’s careers. 
Six Key Insights On What Makes Women CEOs Different?
Six Key Insights On What Makes Women CEOs Different?
Women In Business
Women In Business
Women In Business

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