The Women of the Fortune 500 List: Traits and Strategies to Learn From

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Although there are plenty of female CEO’s and entrepreneurs making headlines these days, historically the Fortune 500 list has been reserved mostly for males, with women only accounting for 4.4% of the list as of October, 2015. In other words, out of 500 members there were only 23 female CEOs (last year there were 24). On the bright side, Mary Barra reached #6, obtaining a higher spot than any woman CEO to come before her. These stats can motivate businesswomen everywhere to take action within their companies and strive for a stronger career, so that we might see a larger female presence on the Fortune 500 list in the near future. With that said, here are four tips for any woman who aspires to one day rank among the most prestigious CEOs in the world:

1. Optimize and Improve Every Noticeable Flaw ASAP

Regardless of gender, the aim of every new CEO should be to incite and facilitate a powerful positive transformation in as many areas as possible. Good stats need to increase and bad stats need to decrease. Such changes are made through ongoing adjustments to business processes that are critical to the bottom line. For example, a new CEO might decide they want to start utilizing a unified communications (UC) platform to increase responsiveness, customer satisfaction, and expedite collaboration. The first step in achieving this might be to make contact with one of the Cisco gold partners in their area to inquire about the cost and benefits of installing a UC platform like Cisco Business Edition 6000. Making changes like these early on will ensure that you’re moving in the right direction by addressing obvious workflow deficiencies.

2. Be Goal-Oriented and Know How to Motivate

If there’s one trait shared by women like Meg Whitman (CEO of Hewlett-Packard, ranked at #19) and Virginia Rometty (CEO of IBM, ranked at #24), it would be staying focused on the tasks at hand with specific goals in mind. A good CEO knows exactly what they’re trying to achieve with each effort and is effective at motivating team members to get on board with their agenda. Needless to say, you’re not going to make it to the top of any Fortune 500 company without the ability to win over a crowd and motivate employees. Keeping the workforce engaged while properly prioritizing and motivating others to do the same is key to making sure the business is firing on all cylinders.

3. Become an Avid Learner and Listener

While it might seem like CEOs are there to teach and talk most of the time, the fact is no CEO has ever reached the Fortune 500 list without doing a great deal of listening and learning first. If you’re aspiring to join the ranks of women like Indra K. Nooy (CEO of PepsiCo, ranked #44), the first thing you need to focus on is your ability to assimilate and recall information, especially when dealing with your superiors. Being promoted to one of the highest positions in the company requires that you not only possess talent, but also have the ability to showcase it in high-pressure situations. Being able to step back and listen to input from all angles will allow you to gain a firmer grasp on the challenge at hand before devising a suitable course of action.

4. People Pleasing and Boss Appeasing

It’s difficult enough to overlook the fact that becoming a CEO of a Fortune 500 company as a female is relatively rare, so getting past that stereotype and breaking through as one of the exceptions will require some “people pleasing and boss appeasing” on a daily basis. You need to be likable, competent, efficient, innovative, and have strong leadership and speaking skills, all at the same time, in order to ensure that customers, co-workers, and your superiors are only impressed by your actions. On the flip side, there’s the “nobody likes a kiss-ass” crowd that might not appreciate an overwhelming amount of assistance or attempts to impress, so it’s best to stay balanced, avoid stealing the spotlight excessively, and focus instead on producing unmissable results consistently.

Make Your Candidacy Known

In closing, in order to be considered as a candidate for the company’s next CEO, women need to act in a manner that shows they’re ready and willing to take on that level of responsibility. Aside from striving to be the perfect employee, you should always try to go above and beyond expectations, especially when given the privilege to exercise authority in a leadership role.

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