Connections, board experience integral to female CEOs' leadership growth: survey

A strong support system and experience serving on a board are among the most useful tools for female CEOs, according to a Sept. 21 report from Los Angeles-based management consulting firm Korn Ferry. 

Korn Ferry interviewed 21 female CEOs, mainly of Fortune 500 companies, about the experiences that paved their career trajectories. 


Key findings from the report:

1. Eighty percent of the CEOs said incoming chiefs require a diverse support network, which should be built before they assume the role. 

2. Seventy percent said early board exposure develops leadership skills and visibility, while preparing incoming executives to manage their own boards. 

3. One-quarter said they were appointed to boards through personal and professional connections.

4. Seventy percent said companies should provide women with development programs and "stretch opportunities" — encouraging them to make lateral moves to gain perspective, appointing them to boards, providing feedback for career development and funneling high performers toward the C-suite. 

5. More than half said tackling difficult tasks improves women's confidence and visibility. 

6. Forty percent said companies can improve retention and diversity by identifying women's potential early, having conversations with them about it and offering support programs to help them build upon it. 

7. Thirty-five percent said organizations should shift women from "pink collar" human resources and marketing roles to P&L roles earlier in their careers. 

8. Sixty percent said leaders should be collaborative and empathetic: Nearly a third expressed that leaders should show humanity by being authentic, accessible, curious, humble and vulnerable.

9. Many said they benefited from objective hiring methods and clear promotion systems. 

10. Forty-five percent said managers should be held accountable for advancing women's careers.

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