From impostor syndrome and burnout to pay inequality and interview biases, the modern workplace is still far from equal where women are concerned. In fact, as of 2019, female CEOs make up just 6.6 percent of the Fortune 500 list, at only 33 women—still a considerable jump from the 4.8 percent, or 24 total women, making the list in 2018.
Still, the situation is far from hopeless. Despite the inherent boundaries, women clearly can and do become the CEO of their companies. From Arianna Huffington and Oprah to Mary T. Barra and Michele Buck, there are countless examples of female CEOs who’ve made their way to the top. And, with a few guidelines, you can follow in their footsteps.
The adage of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” rings all too true. You can never know who might be the connection that will make a difference in your career goals. Befriend those higher up and below you on the career ladder and make connections at other companies. When the boss wants to reach out to another organization and you just happen to have a contact, they’re sure to remember. At the very least, you can make some friends and learn a few things along the way.
Fake It ‘Til You Make It
You might not be the CEO (yet!) but that doesn’t mean you can’t act like one. Take on leadership roles wherever you can and showcase your abilities—highlight those qualities that will make you a great CEO! And, of course, dress the part; appearances make a big impact. They say to dress for the job you want and, in this case, you want to be CEO. So break out those suit jackets and skirts, order a women black blazer jacket, and hold your head up high. Dress the part, act the part, and eventually, you’ll step into the role effortlessly.
Study Your Industry
This might be through traditional means, like earning an MBA or other degree. Or you can “hit the books” in a more active role. For example, OKRs software can help you to study your organization’s objectives and key results to help your team get the most high-quality outcomes possible. Who wouldn’t want to be the go-to person driving the company to success? And what company wouldn’t want a person like that at its helm?
When you’re being interviewed for that coveted CEO position and your interviewer asks, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” you’ll want to have a well-thought-out answer. We know your goal is to run the company, but what sorts of goals would you set for yourself once you’ve done so? This same concept applies to the process of getting to that point in the first place. Consider what steps you need to take to get from where you are now to bring your company’s CEO. Set professional and personal SMART goals to help you get from point A to point B. If it helps, try starting from your end goal and working backward to decide each step you’ll have to take.
If you’re putting in the work and not seeing results, there’s a good chance that you aren’t the problem. If you’ve been a loyal employee, it might be difficult for you to look elsewhere but it might be necessary if you want to move upward. Or, you could consider a different approach: starting a company of your own. It’s a whole new ballgame and a whole lot of work, but becoming an entrepreneur can give you the chance to take on the CEO role with fewer roadblocks than moving up the corporate ladder elsewhere.
Without question, the road to becoming a CEO isn’t easy. No matter what path you take to get there and what steps you take along the way, you’re still facing institutional and societal barriers. There will be people who say you can’t do it, or shouldn’t—sometimes it might even be those nagging voices inside your head. But pay them no heed and keep working toward that goal.
With hard work and following advice like this, it’s only a matter of time before you’ve got that corner office and a company looking to you for guidance!