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Work Talk

The Missing Link For Getting Women To The Top

A higher percentage of women should be getting to the top positions of corporations. That’s a given. A few reasons may explain why it is taking so long. But there is one aspect women may not be aware of. One thing that is critical for getting women to the top positions. 


Interestingly enough, there is proof that increasing women’s presence on boards can have a positive effect on the business. These findings by the Peterson Institute for International Economics are an example. They conducted a research on over 21,000 publicly traded companies in 91 countries which revealed the following:

… and robust evidence that women in the C-level (as in CEO, CFO and COO of management) is associated with higher profitability.


“…the top executives of Canada’s 100 largest publicly traded companies are 92 percent male and a paltry 8 percent female.”

  • Then in the US. An analysis was conducted by Korn Ferry in June 2016. It reveals that of the top 1,000 companies, only 24% of what they call the C-Suite positions were held by women.
  • While women represent 50% of middle management and professional positions. Why are there so many women stuck in the middle management positions? 


A lot of articles and teachings aimed at women are available on the Web. Encouraging them to improve their confidence, to be more ambitious.

You’ll also find lots of great business and management books. Like this favorite one of mine called Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg which made it to the bestseller list. This book emphasizes on the need for women to “get in the game” and “sit at the table”.

Moreover, companies will often provide conventional development programs. Suggesting women managers work with a mentor and take management trainings. And teaching them political skills, how to become more assertive and how to enhance their network.


Still, this is not enough according to Susan Colantuono. She is CEO of Leading Women, a management consulting firm that empowers women. And she describes ‘the missing 33% of the career success equation’ in this TED Talk: The career advice you probably didn’t get.

And as she explains, of the 3 main parts to this career equation, there is one part women hear about the least. Yet it’s the one part that has twice the weight the others have if you want to get through to the top-level positions.

  • The first one is ‘Personal greatness’.
    Which means you need to have great skills, talent and abilities.
  • The second one is ‘Engaging the greatness in others’.
    In other words, you must have great leadership skills. You must be great with customers, be a good negotiator and an all-around good communicator.
  • Finally, the third one — the missing 33% — Business strategic and financial acumen.
    This refers to knowing where the organisation is going. You must know what the strategy is, what financial targets are in place and understand your role in taking it there.

In other words, you should be able to identify the outside factors which can affect the business and make strategic recommendations. And you must have the ability to look at the company’s financial statements, understand what they are saying and make appropriate recommendations.

I truly believe this is one of the most important piece of advice women are lacking. All driven women should be thought to develop those skills if they want a chance at getting to the top C-Level positions of their organisation. 

Do you agree? Have you noticed as well how women do not possess that skill often enough?


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