Advancing women as CEOs and business leaders - Activate World

Advancing women as CEOs and business leaders


In 21st century America, women are still battling sexism to rise to the top of the business world. Many women quit the jobs they love because the sexist culture can be harsh, sometimes making it impossible to advance in her career.

Even though women are earning more college degrees than men and an equal amount of men and women enter the business world, there is a significant difference in who holds a powerful position at major companies. Within just a few years of being hired, men begin earning more than women, and they will start advancing in their career faster. This is not because women are worse than men.

An Oxford University study showed that what men and women do to advance in their career is different. They discovered that men have a wide range of support and advance through networks while women rarely have a mentor, making it harder to develop connections. Women tend not to be respected as business leaders, so they rise to their ranks solely on their own.

The Oxford University also discovered that female CEOs are often appointed to companies in crisis. Meaning that once they break through the glass ceiling, they find themselves still in a perilous situation known to scholars as the glass cliff. In these situations, the woman is set up to look like she failed and is incapable of managing a company.


  • CEO women in Fortune 500 companies have dropped 25% this year leaving only 24 women chiefs. In total, they make up for 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs.
  • Ashley Penrod, an employee of Page One Power, shares her personal experience from attending a sales trade show in N.Y. She said that men were treating her unprofessionally and calling her inappropriate names. In some instances, she was regarded as “having done a good job, for a girl.”
  • Of the 195 independent countries in the world, only 20 are led by women. In 1970, American women were paid 59 cents to every dollar a man made. By 2011, it has gone up 18 cents to now 77 cents to every dollar.
  • According to McKinsey, “Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”

Quests and Actions (Q&A):

  • What can your company do to support women and lessen sexism (even if it’s unintentional) in the work environment?
  • How can an open dialogue about inclusion and diversity happen within your team?
  • What three actions can you take in your workplace to treat women equally, pay them equally, and provide opportunities equally? (For ideas, explore CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™.)


Sources: CNN, CNN, Fortune, Page one Power, Fast Company, The New Yorker, McKinsey
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