Global Women CEOs – What Do They Have in Common?

by | Jul 9, 2012

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.

Implications:

  • 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.
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