Leadership on Point

Let’s Celebrate – Another Female Corporate Executive – CEO!

November 3, 2011 Dr. Johnny Magwood - Guest Author

Women CEOs, Leadership, Women, CEO

Although the pay gap has shrunk, women are virtually absent from executive positions.  Corporations and society, in general, have numerous causes from such misrepresentation; the cuprites most sighted are stereotyping, misperceptions about leadership skills, cultural constraints, and the perceived inability for women to make tough managerial decisions. Moreover, women executives are observed having minimal networking groups and opportunities and are often not accepted in male dominate circles.  But IBM has a different opinion; the October 26, 2011, WSJ revealed that after 30 years of impeccable service, Virginia M. Rometty was given the top position of one of the world’s largest and well know corporation.  Rometty now shares corporate prominence with Hewlett-Packard’s CEO, Meg Whitman – how nice!  In the United Kingdom, executive women are also making a difference; their presences in the board rooms and at higher leadership levels show exceptional performance relative to Total Shareholder Return.  Yet, overall, executive and working women are still exposed to discrimination, stereotyping, the glass ceiling, and an expectation to conform to cultural norms and values.

In the corporate environment, women continue to experience the miasma of workplace inequality.  Professional female employees’ negative postures are still supported by compensation disparity and promotional opportunities based on the perception of their skills and talents (Saunders, O’Neill, & Jensen, 1986).  However, reportedly, women pay is steadily increasing.  Hence, in 1993, female workers received $.67 for every dollar their male counterpart made; while in 1983, the delta was $.58 compared to men and in 1999, the gap shrank to $.75 per dollar earned by men (Burress & Zucca, 2004).  Even more eye opening is the fact that younger women’s compensation exceeded that of senior female employees; while quantitative and qualitative evidence divulge that overtime male and female salaries will be comparable (Burress & Zucca).  Workplace inequality viewed from a different perspective and point in time, demonstrated that prior to 1993, for 20 years, women accounted for 42% of jobs in supervision, administration, and official positions (Bireme, 1996).  A 1990, survey exposed the fact that women represented 2.6% of Fortune 500 corporate executives, but only 2.2% in Fortune 50 firms (Bireme).


Although the compensation gap has shrunk, women are minimally represented in executive compensated positions; and withinWomen CEOs, Leadership, Women, CEO, Executives some industries, executive females are not represented at all (Burress & Zucca, 2004).  Thus, the proverbial glass ceiling is ever-present in corporate America.  As recently reported women reside in 50.3% of corporate leadership and professional jobs and now represent 15.7% of Fortune 500 executive officers (Lundquist, 2005). Ironically, Fortune 500 companies with higher levels of female representation tend to demonstrate a 35.1% higher ROE and a 34.0% higher Total Shareholder Return (Lundquist). Resulting from an interview with 76 Fortune 100 female executives, investigators discovered guidelines for penetrating the glass ceiling – here are the tools: getting assistance from above; possessing a work history of accomplishments; demonstrate a yearning to thrive; harbor leadership skills; demonstrate a propensity towards career risks; and being deliberate (Bireme, 1996).


Breaking the glass ceiling is not an easy task; findings show that women believe the workplace is influenced and dominated by males (Bireme, 1996).  Investigation performed by Saunders, et al (1986) marginalizes the myth that “the attitudes of women did not differ significantly from those of men in the management group.  Concerns are often expressed that women will not ‘fit in’ in the executive suite because their attitudes are different”.  For example, stereotyping women leaders as too ‘people oriented’ and ill equipped to make tough executive managerial decisions is unfounded (Saunders, et al).  Investigators find no creditable data to confirm such a stereotype or differences exist in male versus female leadership traits.


However, a female worker’s barriers to success are grounded in exclusion from casual networks; whereas, 46% of executive women versus 18% executive males experience exclusion (Lundquist, 2005).  To compound that challenges confronting female executives, women experience gender-based stereotypes, unavailable role models, and often an unreceptive corporate culture – at more intense levels vis-à-vis their male counterparts (Lundquist).  The value in this report is grounded in several basic ethical requirements and considerations. Essentially, organizations have a moral obligation to assess their business strategies in a manner that encompasses a winning, viable, and conducive arrangement for the environment, socioeconomic expectations, human rights requirements, and a drive to enhance the well-being of all humankind; particularly women.  Corporations’ understanding and conforming to national and international laws, regulations, and the needs and importance of female workers are paramount to either raising or maintaining a healthy global economy and favorable stakeholder relationships.


Written by Dr. Johnny D. Magwood, vice president customer experience & chief customer officer, Northeast Utilities Service Company.