Ms. CEO: A Rare Commodity

Working on Fifth Avenue at New York City is nothing short of glamorous. Every day, I walk to work on one of NYC’s most famous streets, cutting through Central park, walking by the Plaza, passing Saks and finally entering the headquarters of one of the largest beauty companies in the world to work on photoshoots and press kits while bumping into celebs (and their stylists) in the process.<

Finally being dropped into the “9-5” has me thinking a lot more about my future. What if I want to be the chief executive one day? How feasible is that? What would my income be?

Although it is possible for a woman to become a CEO, out of the “Fortune 500” (the USA’s 500 biggest publicly traded companies), only thirteen of those CEOs are female. That’s only 2.6%.

We’ve had our first female presidential and vice-presidential candidate in the past year and higher education for women is on the rise, yet women are still not holding top positions in companies. The cherry on top of all of this? Even the women who have managed to make their way to the top are still the worst paid out of all CEOs.

Aside from the incredible income disparities, the issue we should be focusing on is why women CEOs are such a rare commodity, not necessarily the size of the paychecks. In 2005, Sheila Wellington was interviewed by Anne Fisher (CNN Money) on this exact issue. Wellington was no stranger to gender discrimination; she was forced to sign an agreement when she accepted her first position after graduating from Radcliffe that stated that she must not get pregnant for at least her first two years.

Wellington went on to become the president of Catalyst, a non-profit research group and is now a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business. When confronted with the question of the lack of female executives, Wellington stated, “I think we are in the midst of a cycle right now where there is a widespread perception that women aren’t fully committed to their careers. It tends to happen every time the spotlight is on a high-ranking woman who flames out, like [former Hewlett-Packard CEO] Carly Fiorina. You start hearing all kinds of people analyzing ‘what women are doing wrong.’”

Wellington goes on to say that the corporate perception of women must alter before women can reach high levels. She blames sexist perceptions such as, “women don’t like to travel” or “women don’t take risks” as platitudes that cloud judgment when hiring female executives. The antiquated mindset that females won’t succeed because of familial obligations, emotional reactions, high drama and lack of critical thinking hinders women from succeeding. Don’t think those perceptions are still out there? Just ask Neil French who resigned as WPP Group worldwide creative director after saying women in advertising “don’t make it to the top because they don’t deserve to.” This sentiment is common according to Wellington.

Does this mean that I can’t become a CEO one day? Working for a Fortune 500 has pushed my desire to do just that. But when I do get that position, do I have to give up my femininity, desire to have a family in the future, penchant for emotional outbursts once in a while, and indulging in guilty pleasures like Gossip Girl? I think not. The mentality around females in executive positions needs to be changed, not the female executives themselves.

Once the archaic stereotypes of women have left the workplace, then companies will realize that women are valuable assets in executive positions. It’s up to Gen Y to break those stereotypes, put much more than just cracks in the glass ceiling and finally finish construction on that bridge to somewhere.

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  1. moe says:

    Hilary Clinton was not the first female presidential candidate, that was Margaret Chase Smith in 1964 for the Republican Party. And Shirley Chisholm ran in 1972, as the first major-party black candidate (and second female to do so).

  2. Pat says:

    It sucks. I agree. However, there has been some interesting thought about the gender in work issue that I read recently. Check it out if you’re really interested:

  3. Alli says:

    Amen sister

  4. KellyT says:

    Hate to be that person, but….

    Geraldine Ferraro for VP with Mondale in '84.

  5. A.C. says:

    Actually, the first female presidential candidate was in 1872, her name was Victoria Woodhull. There have been a series of many women candidates, just not very successful.

  6. […] The work place is cluttered with people who really dislike their jobs.  Well we believe more women should aspire to fill this position. […]

  7. Apologies, the article should've indicated that Hilary and Sarah Palin were both two women who made it the furthest than any other female candidates.

  8. sauer kraut says:

    tsk, tsk, Melanie. How did Ray Robinson ever let you pass basic history? Did good old Husky U ditch all those good polisci profs they had? Did those folks follow the football team outta the building?

  9. Felicia Joy says:

    This is an issue that endures but the tide is changing. The "Great Recession" has made some people realize that the greatest untapped economic force in America–and indeed, the world–is women. Because we have not been substantially included in business leadership, both in corporate America and as entrepreneurs, we are coming from behind and have the greatest room to grow. Seeing more women in the top spot at the Fortune 500 will also mean including more women on boards. We did a segment of our radio show on that not too long ago and my company, Ms. CEO Media Inc., produces content specifically focused on women entrepreneurs to boost the success of their businesses and overturn these kinds of disparities. Link to show: (

  10. […] 11th grader like Taylor Momsen (TayTay: I blame women like you for why there aren’t more female CEOs) or a soon-to-be-sacked slacker like the guy who let a Real Housewife crash the White House state […]

  11. […] today, in honor of the female CEOs, doctors, teachers, political figures and more, our friends from the CreditScore Blog are helping […]

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