The gender gap the enterprise is often most prominent at the top. Here are the qualities necessary to become a successful female CXO.
While many companies are making efforts to promote diversity and inclusion, the gender gap persists—especially in upper management. Only 4.8% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, and only 22% of people on the boards of Fortune 500 companies are women, according to the Pew Research Center’s Data on Women Leaders report.
SEE: Tips for building and advancing your leadership career (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
However, these strategies can only take you so far. After being surrounded by men in management positions for decades, women often end up developing imposter syndrome when they do climb the ladder to the top, which can prevent them from ultimately succeeding.
“I had to overcome a feeling of inadequacy,” said Monika Dowal, vice president of strategic partnerships at Mondo. “I had to make sure I had a positive attitude and kept my eye on the prize.”
Many women fear failure, assuming failure means they don’t belong or aren’t qualified in their position; but failure is a necessary evil, Dowal noted. “Embrace failure, because you will fail time and time again,” she said. “If you’re not taking risks and failing, you won’t succeed.”
Surrounding yourself with smart people and a strong team is also important when trying to climb the ladder in a male-dominated enterprise, said Lauri Klaus, founder and CEO of KeyedIn.
“I truly believe every leader in a corporate environment needs a strong support system,” Dowal added. “My support system allows me to have constant perspective on what’s important in life and what my opinion is versus what reality is in both my personal and professional life.”
At the end of the day, succeeding as a female business leader greatly depends on whether the person has the necessary qualities. Here are some of the attributes women in the enterprise must have to be successful business leaders, according to female business leaders.
Success doesn’t happen overnight, and one of the biggest challenges on the road to success is failure, Dowal said. Women in the workplace must be patient through their failures, using them as humbling lessons and learning experiences, she noted.
Patience is also vital in day-to-day situations, said June Severino Feldman, chief marketing officer of Intelligent Product Solutions.
Women must have “the patience to take a deep breath, walk away from a situation and give yourself space to think clearly about, and then craft the most advantageous and effective response,” Feldman said.
Women shouldn’t be afraid to feel confident in their wins, whether the win is small or big, said Klaus.
“I have found that women can’t fake confidence as much as men can (with a smile),” Klaus said. “The experience, the work, the wins, the firsthand knowledge all go into what any leader has to say and what goes into their direction. Building on these areas early on in one’s career will position any woman to find people who want to follow their lead.”
Klaus also recommended not avoiding emotions, as many women feel societally feel obligated to do in the workplace.
“Don’t shy away from your empathic thoughts and think you have to be a tough ‘guy’ to lead. Women care very deeply for their employees and they feel it. Show you care and they will care for you as well,” Klaus said.
Ladies in leadership who have benefited from a support system must remember they are still a part of others’ support systems. To rise in the ranks, the person must be supported, which can only happen if employees feel comfortable working with and talking to that person, Klaus said.
“Make sure you are approachable,” Klaus noted. “If not you will be working in a bubble and not hear and learn about what is happening on a daily basis. Because the daily activities, ups and downs, are what help you to continue to refine your leadership.”
For more, check out How companies can recruit and retain more women on TechRepublic.