The phrase “It’s lonely at the top” is one that resonates most with women CEOs and women in leadership positions. Although gender equality issues are improving, there continues to be an imbalance between the amount of men and women holding CEO positions. A recent tally by Catalyst, a women’s career research non-profit, shows that as of January 2016, only 4.2% of S&P’s 500 companies had women in CEO positions. These 21 women in CEO positions represent a reality of inequality.
Among the most difficult aspects of this inequality is the lack of like-minded individuals with which women may relate. Any CEO or C-Suite level person will face challenges during their career. Being at the top is not easy. In the case of women, these hurdles are experienced more intensely, as they must face not only the challenges of being a leader, but also the difficulties of being a female in a male dominated environment.
Research shows that companies are often less likely to invest in mentoring and leadership development programs for women. When challenges with balancing work and home come up, women can appear less committed than their male counterparts. As a result companies often view making career enhancing opportunities available to women as a more risky investment.
Many women who want to lead take the entrepreneurial route to becoming CEO. Having control over their work schedule to a degree can make a big difference, especially if a woman has children. In addition, there’s no need to spend years trying to advance in a company. Heading your own company can be a much more direct route to leadership.
As entrepreneurs, women still face the isolation of being the key decision maker. They often get advice from their employees, significant others and friends who usually have their best interest at heart, but not the skill set, background and experience to advise them. Women entrepreneurs need to connect with like-minded others who have no vested interest in giving advice aside from wanting to help a female peer. This support from others who have “been there and done that” can be critical to the success of that entrepreneur.
Women in leadership positions face unique challenges. Many of the situations they encounter are not ones that their male counterparts face. Recently, a women CEO and client complained that she “can’t have a bad day or show anger.” Apparently, her team gets fixated on watching her behavior and “trying to interpret my mood instead of just accepting that I’m angry.” She went on to observe that she doesn’t believe that “a man in the same situation would get the same scrutiny.”
The Key Women’s Leadership Forum was created to alleviate the loneliness and angst that executive women often feel during their careers. Both women at the C-Suite level as well as women entrepreneurs can receive advice and support in an unbiased environment. The forum creates a medium through which women are able to support each other and ultimately aid each other’s successes as well as pick each other up after temporary failures. By coming together as a group and discussing their situations, women are able to gain a broader perspective while learning from, and encouraging each other.