Global Women CEOs – What Do They Have in Common?

The Top Global Women CEO’s

CNN Money recently published brief backgrounds of the top thirteen global women CEO’s. There are some clear trends.

CEO Indra Nooyi

Science, Engineering and Technology Lead the Way to the Top

Six of these top thirteen women CEO’s have undergraduate degrees in science, engineering or technology (SET). SET is also the most common technical background among these top ranking women. Finance, accounting and economics rank second, with three of the top thirteen global women CEO’s majoring in these disciplines. The remaining categories include psychology, history and marketing, with one woman representing each of these undergraduate majors.

A Matter of Degrees for Women CEO’s

Nine of the thirteen global women CEO’s hold advanced degrees. Seven have MBA’s and three graduated from Ivy League schools.


  • While STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers are often perceived as “unfriendly” even “hostile” to women, they are a viable, and one of the better, career paths to the top. From my own experience in high tech, I know the industry to be one where technical prowess rules, regardless of personality or gender. If you prove yourself technically, hone your natural people skills, throw in a dash of political savvy, you can make and earn your marks in a STEM environment.
  • Degrees matter for women. If we looked at a group of thirteen male CEO’s we might find the same number of advanced degrees as we do for these women CEO’s. My sense is, however, that for many women, building a platform from which to speak with self-confidence often involves, and possibly requires, earning an advanced degree. To be sure, self-confidence is a prerequisite for all CEO’s, but research indicates that lack of self-confidence is more of an obstacle for professional women in general.

Advice for Aspiring Women CEO’s

  1. Get Technical. If you have any acumen and/or interest in STEM – pursue it.
  2. Go for That Advanced Degree. Thinking about an MBA? Do it.
  3. Hone your intuitive people skills.
  4. Know and pay attention to the politics of leading.
  5. Build your self-confidence muscle.
Worth Knowing
Dr. Anne Perschel
Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn


  • Wendy Mason says:

    Hi Anne
    This is great advice. If I was starting out now I have no doubt what direction I’d go in and it would be into electronics and engineering. Years ago I carried out a study for the MHS in England of the pay and grading of their medical physics scientists and technicians and their electronics technicians – it was a long time ago. But it left a lasting impression on me of the opportunities a good science or engineering degree gave for a career that could combine academic excellence with creativity and, dare I say it, craft skills – particularly when designing prototypes in those days. I don’t think people understand what an opportunity science and engineering present for a combination of what used to be called left and right brained thinking – we pay a lot for the false arts and science divide. In those days you couldn’t do an MBA that built on those kind of skills. Now thank goodness you can and I’m not surprised that women who made those kinds of choices are doing so well

    • Wendy – You may be onto something big and important as a way to attract more women, and more whole thinkers, into technology and science. End the false divide between the arts and sciences. Wouldn’t that be grand!

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