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The Once Pervasive Path to the Top: Women Leading in the Workplace

By Zachary Avina, B.S. in Business Management and Victor T. Madubuko, SPHR, GPHR
Business Team (Focus on African Woman)

According to CNN Money, only 14.2% of corporate positions in S&P 500 companies are occupied by women (Egan 1). Surprisingly enough, university roosters tend to show greater numbers of female students, and yet where these women end up in the workplace remains staggeringly low compared to men.

In recent years, Lockheed Martin and General Motors have been the leading corporations who have employed female CEO’s; nevertheless, the progress of women in such capacities remains sluggish (Egan 2). According to a study on how to develop women business leaders, it is shown that strong early development of “basic skills” in business is necessary (Marcus 2). This “basic skills” function has been in play for the last half-century as numbers of women graduating college continues to increase. What, then, is the hold up?

Further dissection of the issue, separate from the common denominator of sexism traditions and the subliminal “glass ceiling,” reveals three core areas in which the future woman CEO must concentrate:

• Attitude and work ethic
• International exposure
• Mentoring

Attitude and work ethic, although outwardly obvious and superficial, account for large numbers of women succeeding in the workplace. Deeply rooted in this section is the ability of women to recognize and create opportunities, “harnessing their fears and doubts as rocket fuel instead of rocks in their pocket” (Marcus 2). Morally and logically repugnant as it may appear, opportunities are not simply handed over, nor shall the absence of hard work accomplish such paramount goals. It is an uphill battle, even more so, for the future woman executive

The globalization of the world has created a necessity of business executives to understand varying needs, modes of thinking, and reactions to problem-solving situations. Although international exposure is a universal necessity, women must take decisive steps in global involvement, regardless of the locality of their particular enterprise, because challenging the certainty of our thinking can be extremely fruitful. Additionally, pressing the envelope of women’s comfort zones only reinforces the point in the previous section about attitude and constant forward propulsion.

Lastly, mentoring accounts for the greatest leaps and bounds in a person’s career development. Lucy Marcus, in her article that outlines the career development of women executives, highlights different areas in a woman’s career that require different types of mentoring: student years, first-job, mid-career, and career success (Marcus 3-4). The modern struggle, it seems, resides in the mid-career and career success phases of development; therefore, these stages are illuminated below.

Opportunities cannot always become available or created in certain situations, and the future woman executive may find herself in professional stagnation. At this point it becomes necessary to look outside the realm of her work for mentoring and international exposure that can ultimately boost her situation or provide outside opportunities that she is clearly deficient. Additionally, some women may find themselves owning their own business or in an executive position already: the challenge then becomes furthering her professional development to sustain and flourish in this position.

CareerNation and the Yale School of Management have taken into account these factors and have developed a program to address the fundamentals of professional development for women today. The Visiting Women’s Executive Exchange Program (VWEEP) establishes a hub for international exposure in which women business leaders create a dialogue on professional development, guided by Yale’s renowned professors in topics of great importance for business success.

Rooted in the partnership between the United States and Africa, this program seeks to extend the development of women in their “basic skills” and in diverse, problem-solving situations with their business peers and Yale mentors. Workshops focus on effective management, various topics on women in the workplace, and sustaining business success for the globalized market. This program brings forth and addresses the previously discussed challenges facing women in the workplace today.

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Egan, Matt. “Still Missing: Female Business Leaders.” CNN Money. CNN, 24 Mar. 2015.
Web. 24 Jan. 2016.
Marcus, Lucy P. “Developing Women Leaders: Five Essentials.” LinkedIn. Pulse, 1 Jan.
2013. Web. 24 Jan. 2016.