Women. The “good old boy” club may still be around, but it’s nowhere near what it used to be.
Today, some of the biggest U.S. companies—many of them Fortune 500s—are now run by women. Heavy hitters such as Citigroup, General Motors, BestBuy, UPS, and even Nasdaq now have women as their CEOs. And it’s about time. But why has it taken so long?
That’s a hard question to answer, as there are probably lots of reasons. But it’s pretty safe to say that the emergence of women in leadership has been fueled by overall changes in our society. For example:
1. The concept of “gender” has dramatically evolved in recent years.
The patriarchal view that men are always the leaders—a perspective that has kept women out of board rooms—is fading from our culture’s view. Adding to that, the recognition of gender fluidity is quickly removing traditional stereotypes of men and women, opening doors that have been locked for years. Frankly, gender—or biological sex—just isn’t an issue in the business world as it once was, giving women a better chance to show what they’re made of.
2. Educational opportunities for women now empower their career development.
The rising number of women earning business degrees, especially executive MBAs, has opened up opportunities like never before. Once implicitly regarded as “men only” majors, such fields as finance, management, international business, and information systems are now pursued by a growing population of women. Even secondary education, with renewed focus on math and sciences, prepares young women for careers they once could not easily seek.
3. The role of the wage-earner has taken a new form in the 21st century.
Today’s economy is not your parents’ economy: Changing times have amended the rules about who brings home the bacon. In many households, the woman is no longer a provider of “supplemental” income: it’s now her salary that sustains the family. With this new reality in mind, women are able to devote more time and energy to develop their careers, as men once exclusively did, which naturally carries her farther up the company ladder.
Women now take their rightful turns steering the destinies of U.S. companies. Will the trend continue? It sure looks like it. Whether it’s knowledge, insight, or intuition that women bring to corporate leadership, the workplace can no longer get by without it.