How Far Are Women Leaning In? The Number Of Female CEOs Tells Us It’s Not Enough


The gender pay gap is a central issue in the modern business world, but is this disparity present even in the most senior positions? Are women at the top being treated equally? If not, why do they perceive that to be? In the age of “leaning in” and women starting their own businesses at a much higher rate than men, we are still yet to see a major change in the existing corporate titans in terms of women in key positions of leadership. So just how big is the gender gap between make and female CEOs?


The following graphics break down the specifics of how the gap occurs. Let’s now look into how exactly women are faring at the top of the business world by examining common barriers, differences in opportunities for progression and pay discrepancies. When it comes to age, female CEOs and generally the same age as men.


But when it comes to earning capacity, it is a different story. On average, male CEOs earn upwards of £2 million ($2.5 million USD) more than women as of the fiscal year 2016.


Even when women do manage to achieve the same level of leadership as most male CEOs, it takes them a lot longer. On average, it takes women nearly a year and a half longer to become CEO than men. That figure is based on results from 313 companies in both the FTSE 100 and S&P 500.


There are a number of barriers standing in the way of female success, some of which are common challenges among many women, according to one study.


One of the most common barriers is having a family. Below is the proportion of respondents with a child 18 years or younger who think that being a working parent makes it harder to advance in their career.

However, when asking ‘Millennial’ workers without children the same question, there was no gender gap, with 62% saying it would make it harder to advance, suggesting that there is a shift in perception when both sexes start a family.

In countries like the US which is the only developed nation in the world not to have any form of federally-mandated paid family leave, these problems become exacerbated.


Stress also becomes a barrier to success, with many stating it is a factor in hindering their career trajectory. It is interesting to see how having children makes a different in stress levels, indicating that perhaps family support may be lacking in certain companies.


Added to the stress levels is the unofficial knowledge that women are still held to a higher standard than men, simply to prove they are capable of doing the same job. The most notable example we have seen in public was the recent US presidential election where Hillary Clinton, who has spent almost 3 decades as a public servant and possessed a vast knowledge of policy, lost to a man who barely had any idea of what the job of president entails.

In the private sector, women in leadership face the same hurdles. When asked ‘why aren’t women in top business positions?’, the following proportions believed that women were held to a higher standard than men.


In fact, a large percentage of women believe their gender is a primary prohibitive factor to their success trajectory, proving how far we have to go to break down the ‘Mad Men’ sexist stereotypes still in existence throughout the workforce.


Because of this, a number of women believe they don’t have the same level of access to leadership roles. These are the percentages of respondents who believed that women have fewer, the same or more opportunities for career progression than men.


If there is one glaring argument that needs to be made in favor of more equality at top levels, it is related to money. As women make up half of the working world’s population, if women played an identical role in working life to that of men, global annual GDP would potentially increase by $28 trillion (26%) by 2025.

It is one of the reasons the UN has placed emphasis on economic equality in its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, launched in 2015 with the intent to eliminate global poverty by 2030. When women are in a financially empowered situation, everyone benefits.

There are some business owners and entrepreneurs, such as ‘Shark Tanks’ Kevin “Mr. Wonderful” O’Leary who says more than half of the companies in his portfolio are run by women, because he has seen larger returns with companies that have a female CEO. We’ve also shared a number of studies showing that companies with a more diverse C-suite report greater profits.


A lot of it comes down to perception. Gender quotas and diversity initiatives can only go s0 far. Statistics can make an impact, but it has to begin with an inherent attitude regarding gender equality in the workplace.

When asked about which traits make the best leaders, the following were considered to be the most important characteristics.


Do people believe women possess these traits needed for successful leadership? It turns out the answer is mostly yes. So why aren’t we seeing more female CEOs? Change can’t just happen at the very top, it begins at an early age, with the messages imparted to young girls and boys. It stems from the messages they are taught about leadership, careers, gender and society, as these can have a profound impact on the path they may take into their careers and adult life.

Fostering gender equality has be present in all aspects of our lives if we want to drastically change the status quo for female CEOs.


[This post was originally published on, which outlined a list of resources it obtained data from for this infographic.]





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