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LINK: https://www.forbes.com/sites/committeeof200/2020/10/27/women-ceos-in-america–a-story-of-progress-and-opportunity/?sh=5e80095e36d7

By Kimber Maderazzo, former executive vice president and general manager of Proactiv, executive chairperson of C200 and member since 2010, board member at Pepperdine Graziadio Business School, and founder of the beauty line Milli Rose.

I have good news for you! (And with everything going on in the world, who couldn’t use a little positivity?) Every day, there are more women executives and business owners. From small businesses to Fortune 500 and everything in between, the data clearly show that women are advancing in business.

As a female entrepreneur, executive, and board member, I can’t even begin to explain how much this means to me. Over the years, I have found my career to be immensely rewarding, and one of my greatest hopes is that more women will be able to realize their professional dreams of climbing to the top rungs of the corporate ladder.

But with all of the good news about more women advancing in leadership roles, the bad news is that progress still leaves a lot to be desired.  For example, women today lead 167 of the top 3,000 companies in the United States (per the Russell 3000), which is more than double the share a decade ago, but still under 6%. Last I checked, women make up about half of the population, so it seems a bit peculiar that we remain drastically underrepresented as CEOs.

Fixing this problem has become a passion of mine.  That’s why I jumped at the chance to team up with some leading organizations to create a comprehensive report that outlines the current state of women in the top echelon of leadership roles. Women CEOs in America is the first report of its kind. Led by the Women Business Collaborative (WBC), an alliance organization dedicated to building a movement to rapidly change the numbers of women in leadership positions, C200, a global nonprofit for women business leaders dedicated to educating and advancing women in business, and Catalyst, a global nonprofit that accelerates women’s leadership, we worked together to collect data from both the public and private sector. We wanted to obtain a better understanding of how women are represented today in CEO roles so that we can share that information with the larger business community and gain buy in for accelerating the pace of change.

Personally, this report was eye opening to me. Women CEOs in Fortune 500 are regularly in the news, but there are many other women leaders who rarely make it into the spotlight—especially those who lead private companies. I loved learning about these inspiring executives and entrepreneurs and their journeys to the top, because as we all know, they worked their tails off to get there! A lot of women are able to obtain executive roles, but most are never promoted to CEO. That needs to change.

As the Chairperson (and a longtime member) of C200, I’ve seen firsthand how women have the power to lift each other up. Our mission is to advance women in business, and we have several programs specifically designed to support women on their career trajectories at different phases.

Our Protégé program pairs C200 members with high-potential women entrepreneurs in similar industries to mentor them, expand their networks, and help grow their businesses.  In the most recent Protégé cohort, participants experienced an average revenue increase of 10.3% per year.

Our C-Ahead® program targets female corporate senior leaders who are in the succession pipeline for a P&L C-Suite position. Our members mentor participants in a variety of capacities, giving them the tools and access they need to get ahead. We are thrilled that a number of women in the program have, in fact, been promoted to CEO.

Although I’m proud of our organization’s accomplishments, I’m not sharing this information to brag. My goal is to show that when women are intentional about helping other women, it makes a difference.

Unfortunately, there can be a big gap between intention and impact. Many women have nothing but the best intentions for helping female peers on their journey up the corporate ladder, but thinking good thoughts and taking action lead to totally different results. It’s time to go beyond just hoping and wishing that we reach gender parity quickly. We need to take action.  I challenge all women reading this to do just a little more.

What can you do today to help another woman in her career? Can you make an introduction, talk up a female colleague in a meeting, or reconnect with an old contact and ask how she’s doing? You could also share some of the stories and stats featured in Women CEOs in America to highlight the progress and opportunities for the continued advancement of female leaders. You could also apply for or nominate a woman leader to participate in ProtégéC-Ahead®, or our brand new program for entrepreneurs who have $250K-$1M in revenue, CHAMPION. These efforts don’t take much time, but they can make a huge impact, especially if more and more women take consistent action.

We have a long way to go before we see equity and equality in the C-Suite and boardrooms.  But as women leaders, the onus falls on us to ensure the next generation has equal access to opportunity in business.

Register for this year’s Action for Impact Summit happening on September 25, 2024!