Being a Female CEO

by Adele Burney

Although women still make about 80 cents for every dollar that a man earns, the tide is turning in the corner office. Twenty-one women now head Fortune 500 companies with even more leading Fortune 1000 companies. In 2013, 8.2 million women managed their own companies. Being a female, chief executive officer in a business world dominated by men, is challenging to say the least. Women face obstacles that men don’t, and they often have greater scrutiny placed on them.

Responsible Leadership

Female CEOs have a tremendous amount of responsibility on their shoulders. Their gender sometimes places them under tougher scrutiny so female CEOs must lead with decisiveness and directness. Research shows that start-up companies with a strong concentration of female executives have a greater success rate. Take for example, Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook. When she took over the position, Facebook generated no discernible revenue. Under her leadership, the company is now publicly traded and generating revenue. Women in the top positions learn to overcome the obstacles of perception that may label them as weak and sensitive.

Role Models

Female CEOs serve as role models to career women starting out in the corporate world. The scarcity of corporate female leaders catapults those in CEO positions to become mentors for women following in their footsteps. Women often discuss the difficulties of having both a successful career and fulfilling home life so these CEOs are viewed as having it all. How they handle multiple responsibilities is compelling for corporate climbers. An example of this is the CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer, whose return to work shortly after giving birth made headlines across the country. She also made the news when she ordered a ban on telecommuting.


In 2012, the top paid female CEO, Irene Rosenfeld, made $25.37 million in her role at Kraft Foods. Salaries of CEOs are typically a hybrid of salary, stock options and bonuses. Female CEOs typically make the same if slightly less than men. Part of this may be attributable to the fact that these roles are highly visible. This is not to say that women aren’t still struggling to match male earnings, even at the CEO level. Although there are now more female CEOs than ever before, they still represent a small percentage in the business world.

Becoming a CEO

Starting your own company may be the fastest way to become a CEO. Increases in female run businesses increased 50 percent from 1997 to 2011, according to a recent article on Currently, women own 30 percent of businesses in the United States. Unfortunately, many female run businesses also fail and few reach revenues of $1 million or higher in comparison to male owned businesses. To make it to this top spot, women need to focus on their goals, sell their brand and network. These are three main focus points from Debora McLaughlin, author and CEO of The Renegade Leader Coaching and Consulting Group. She also points out that women are the decision makers in up to 85 percent of consumer transactions. This gives female executives insight into customer trends, an advantage over their male counterparts.

About the Author

Adele Burney started her writing career in 2009 when she was a featured writer in "Membership Matters," the magazine for Junior League. She is a finance manager who brings more than 10 years of accounting and finance experience to her online articles. Burney has a degree in organizational communications and a Master of Business Administration from Rollins College.

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