How Female CEOs Could Lead with Impact

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A record number of women are Fortune 500 CEOs. Women are launching businesses at 1.5 times the national average. There are now 8.2 million American women running their own companies.

“The numbers are notable,” said executive and business coach Debora McLaughlin, author of The Renegade Leader: 9 Success Strategies Driven Leaders Use to Ignite People, Performance and Profits. (www.TheRenegadeLeader.com)

“From 1997 to 2011, the number of U.S. women-owned businesses increased by fifty percent,” McLaughlin said. “And in 2011, the median compensation for female CEOs was thirteen percent more than for male CEOs,” according to NerdWallet Financial Markets.

According to Catalyst, a nonprofit organization, as of January 1 there were twenty-one women running Fortune 500 companies, including IBM and PepsiCo, That’s up from seven in 2002 to 2003. Among the Fortune 1000 companies, there are twice as many, including the CEOs of Neiman Marcus Group, Cracker Barrel, and Dun & Bradstreet.

"Nonetheless, business women still face hurdles,” McLaughlin notes. “Keep in mind, while twenty-one are Fortune 500 CEOsa record highthat’s only 4.25 percent of the total. And the figures hold for Fortune 1000 companies: Less than five percent have a female at the helm.” 

McLaughlin, a recipient of the 2012-13 Women of the Year award presented by the National Association of Professional Women, watches the financial trends. While women are launching more businesses, they have an upward climb; studies show that women-owned companies are less likely to hit the $1 million mark and are more likely to fail.

“To claim, own, and keep the keys to the corner office, women executives need to be seen and heard, and to lead with greater influence and impact,” McLaughlin said. She offers three key tips:

  • Develop your personal brand: Let  people get to know you and your core story of experiences, and how they relate to your drive and vision. As Steve Jobs said, "connect the dots," then use  transparent communication to share your story. People make better connections  with people who tell a great story, and they’re most interested in the story behind the person at the top. Transparency encourages greater communication, team building, and leadership.
  • Develop and use your personal  network. Find a mentor and be a mentor; seek out other women at your  level; accept the strength, ideas, and energy your connections have to offer. It is no longer necessary to blaze trails alone, and women have more  power than they may realize. According to a Dow Jones report, startups with five or more female executives have a sixty-one percent success rate. It goes further and says that odds of success "increase with more female executives at the VP and director levels."
  • Stand for something; position yourself as a strong thought leader. It’s not easy being at the top. Women tend to distrust powerful women, and men may view women as weak or too collaborative and sensitive. Take a firm stand on something you care about deeply and rally the organization around that objective. You will gain the respect of your peers, customers, and stakeholders.

As the numbers clearly demonstrate, business is changing. Women account for seventy-three percent to eighty-five percent of consumer decisions in the United States, which gives female CEOs yet another advantage—insight into their customers’ values, McLaughlin says.

Written by: Debora McLaughlin, best-selling author of The Renegade Leader: 9 Success Strategies Driven Leaders Use to Ignite People, Performance and Profits, author of the forthcoming book A League of Her Own, and CEO of The Renegade Leader Coaching and Consulting Group, combines her experience as certified executive coach and as a top sales performer in New York City and Boston to help CEOs, business leaders, and organizations achieve accelerated results.

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