The facts are well known, only 4.6% of CEOs are women in US S&P 500 companies. (published on September 30th 2016 by catalyst).
The demographic and educational data of 23 women CEOs and 99 male CEOs from US S&P 500 companies is distressing: The number of children was found as a key determinant in reaching a CEO position, i.e. it is 4.3 times less likely that women will obtain CEO position as her number of children increases. Education was also found in negative correlation with CEO position (Hurley and Choudhary ,2016).
Trying to unfold the phenomena of "glass cliff", researchers (Ryan et al, 2016) concluded that men have privileged access to stable companies' leadership roles whilst women are selected ahead in glass cliff precarious and risky situations. Hence, their chances of failure are much higher.
Women executives who penetrated the glass ceiling were asked about their strategy for success (Baker & Cangemie2016). Their primary strategy, as stated by 77% of them, was to exceed performance systematically, which means working much harder. The 2nd strategy was to develop a professional style that men colleagues are comfortable with. The 3rd strategy was to accomplish highly visible assignments. If this is not enough, women have to confront other manifestations of gender bias such as: double bind (women are perceived masculine if they portray their competency) and lack of investors' confidence in women leading firms in high risk situations.
The authors conclude that firms must create greater awareness among those who select the next generation, create effective organizational policies that ensure women's consideration for senior roles and incorporate women senior leaders into organizational values and vision statements.
Women do not want to climb up the ladder due to policies but because of their merit, combined with companies' natural resistance to change, this transition is one of the most difficult to generate as history repeatedly reassures us. It is evident that companies have to make substantial effort in order to gain gender equity. Companies need highly determined senior management and board of directors in order to commence such a maneuver and a gender expert to guide implementation.
Dr. Michal Sela, Organizational and leadership development