The lack of female CEOs IS a pipeline problem

An article in the New York Times says the reason for the lack of female CEOs is not a pipeline problem. Dorothy Dalton explains why she is confused.


Lack of Female CEO’s IS a pipeline problem

female CEOs


A post in the New York Times Why women aren’t CEOs according to the women who almost were opens with a statement

It’s not a pipeline problem. It’s about loneliness, competition and deeply rooted barriers

I confess to being confused. Loneliness, competition and deeply rooted barriers are central to the female talent pipeline and the very reason why it becomes a trickle nearer the upper echelons of our organisations.  So how can it not be a pipeline problem?

The author Susan Chira suggests:

many senior women in business are concluding that the barriers are more deeply rooted and persistent than they wanted to believe, according to interviews with nearly two dozen chief executives, would-be chief executives, head hunters, business school deans and human resources professionals.


Read: 5 ways companies can attract and retain female talent

The female talent pipeline is broken


Bias in the selection and promotion process is a pipeline problem because it suggests that male coded corporate cultures still dominate organisations. What will change that is a shift in the demographic by increasing the number of women in organisations who aim to change the way things are done rather than accept what exists now. At every level. That is both the problem and the challenge.  To achieve that there has to be a critical mass of senior women. The U.S which astonishingly lags behind the rest of the world in terms of conditions for women, will possibly be slower than other countries to deal with those barriers. It is currently ranked 45th in the 2016 World Economic Forum Gender Gap report.

References in the post are made to golf-outings, after hours drinks and a need to deal with an alpha male culture where women are penalised for being assertive. One commentator was suspicious about working overseas

“I thought so many of the countries we were going into were so against women, I thought, I don’t need that.”

Read: How to attract talented women to your organisation

Need for external mentors and coaches for female CEOs

That notion is positively misguided and one that any international coach could have supported her on how to handle what would have been a critical assignment, and immensely valuable to her career experience. This is not to say that women elsewhere do not face these challenges, but the only way to change this situation will be if more women join senior ranks and become female CEOs and sponsor other women. Corporate culture needs to change and senior women should be allocated external mentors and coaches to relieve that sense of isolation.

Claudia de Castro Caldeirinha, co-author of  Women Leaders in Brussels (Caldeirinha & Hoerst, John Harper Publishing, 2017) suggests:

Many organisations pay lip service only to diversity and inclusion. Yet they continue to operate with values and norms that are male coded.  Research from Deloitte shows that despite commitments from CEOs it is still the middle manager that need to be more fully behind the concept of gender parity.

For diversity and inclusion to become embedded in the organization, leaders should pursue changes in processes and systems. Organizations should transparently measure diversity, and managers should be held accountable for outcomes as well as their own behavior.

Until gender balance is incentivized with some organisations integrating targets into KPIs then nothing much will change.

Read: The double bind of female ambition

Loneliness is gender neutral

Life for a senior executive is lonely for men and women and is a gender neutral affliction. An article in Management Today  indicates:

A CEO Snapshot Survey by RHR International in 2012 found that over half admitted to feeling lonely, and yet it still remains a taboo subject. In fact, it is difficult to find CEOs who are ready to admit it publicly

But the isolation would be much less for female CEOs, if there were a team of other women around.

Book an appointment NOW to discuss how to strengthen your female talent pipeline and how to make your organization a sought after target company.

3Plus, 3Plus online e-Gazine for professional women, International Assignments, Leadership, Mentoring
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Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she joins the dots between organisations, individuals, opportunity and success.

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