Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been catching up on some reading. Mostly, I’ve been tackling a very large pile of magazines sitting beside my bed. In the most recent Harvard Business Review, the editors assessed and profiled the best performing CEOs in the world. The first thing I noticed was how few women were on the list.
By my count, two women were on the list out of 100. And the first woman did not appear in the ranking until #47.
Of course, there are many well documented reasons that contribute to the reality of the glass ceiling, such as gender prejudice, reduced access to education globally, male leaders hiring candidates that are more like themselves, compensation inequity, etc. Another key reason more women are not represented in the top jobs is that many women leaders choose to remove themselves from the workforce or be underemployed during times when they are caring for families, both young children and aging parents.
In the most recent HR Professional magazine, “Opting In: HR’s role in transitioning women back in the workforce” author Sarah B. Hood, gives advice to women who plan to take time away from their careers for family reasons. Specifically, she suggests it is important to maintain and build your network, research and understand your value in the current job market, take a course to ensure your skills are competitive with other candidates, and believe in yourself without apology. In her article, Hood also suggests that companies should do more to engage this talent pool and help support women to get back on the leadership track following a break to care for their families.
I am a big fan of all individuals taking ownership of their careers and creatively building lives that fit their values. I believe in making choices and understanding both the benefits and mitigating the risks of every career decision. I know many, many amazing women leaders who have built thriving teams and organizations – and some have done so after taking a break for family. If women are strategic about the time they spend away from the workforce and if companies can do more to engage this talent potential, I believe we will see more women recognized for their leadership, including those at the highest levels in business.