In what has been a tough year on many fronts, there is some very good news regarding women in leadership. A recent Wall Street Journal story says that 41 female CEOs are slated to be running Fortune 500 companies in 2021. That is a new record.
While this is still a relatively low number, it shows progress. The trend is up. Corporations are becoming more and more willing to build a bench of senior female talent, particularly in the retail industry. That makes sense to me because for years, research has shown that it’s the women in the household make those buying decisions. They know what works, so who better to create winning retail strategies than women leaders?
Female retail CEOs include Michelle Gass, Kohl’s Corporation; Lauren Hobert, Dick’s Sporting Goods; Heyward Donigan at Rite Aid; at CVS Health, Karen Lynch.
Jane Stevenson, who leads executive recruiting for Korn Ferry’s global CEO-succession practice believes that the technological and competitive challenges over the last decade have opened the CEO door for leaders with chief merchandising experience. “It’s forced boards to think outside the box and look at where opportunity is being created, and that has an opportunity for women to shine.”
For years I have been a Best Buy fan. The company turned itself around in the 90’s when Corie Barry was Chief Finance Officer. It was a great success story. Not surprisingly, Ms. Barry was promoted to CEO last year.
This business of building a pipeline of female talent has been decades in the making. Promoting them into the C-Suite roles that put them in contention for chief executive is now bearing fruit. Pointing to Jane Fraser at Citi-Goup and Linda Rendle at Clorox Company, Stevenson remarked….”You have to plant and cultivate the seeds to get the crop.” The glass ceiling is fragile now, and apparently getting even more so.
Whether women’s gains will continue at this positive pace is unclear. Yet some see a bright future. Bonnie Gwin, co-managing partner of Heidrick & Struggles global CEO and board practice says that after the pandemic’s initial hits, a longer term view of succession planning is at hand. To thrive, “Many companies are realizing they need to diversify at every level,” says Ms. Gwin, who predicts more women and people of color will see doors opening into major-companies C-Suites in 2021. I hope she is right.
Today, I am celebrating these advances by the talented and deserving women. They have been a long-time coming. May they continue…
Read More: Women Advance To Fortune 500 CEO’s