Another viewpoint: Women need to be seen as leaders

Is Corporate America identifying and training women for top job? Because C-suite no longer is enough

Women in the corporate world.

Valuable — of course. 

Significant — most definitely. 

Represented at all levels of management — not quite yet. 

Women are working in every field with men and are making valuable contributions toward the overall success of organizations. Yet, today, we still find more men sitting in C-suite positions even though there have been more conversations taking place to shed light on the lack of women in corporate boardrooms and executive positions. 

The women listed among these pages have certainly made great strides in breaking the barriers and effectively positioned themselves in the upper levels of their business worlds. Women are finally getting a voice in the corporate world.

But there is still much work to be done on various levels — pay equity, equal opportunity and a need to rid the corporate world of discriminatory attitudes, or inaccurate “facts” about women’s capacity for leadership. Women are competing more now than ever in the corporate world.

Anna María Tejada, a top employment lawyer at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr and the president of Executive Women of New Jersey, acknowledged that there are more women now than a few years ago in executive positions. But she questioned whether enough women are being identified and molded to be in these positions. 

“Are women in corporations being trained and mentored?” she asked, and then pondered another question. “Are there resources provided that they need in order to serve in these roles?  

“Those are the questions we need to start asking.”

The understanding or acceptance that only individuals who are already in executive positions are properly experienced to be CEOs has to change in order to have different results in the C-suite, Tejada said.

“There are women who tend to be in general counsel positions or human resources or chief diversity officer positions that may not be looked at as a successor to become CEO, and that mindset has to change,” she said.

While women are being promoted into managerial positions at higher numbers now, Tejada said corporations would benefit and move more women up if they looked at their strategy for retention inclusion, which offers individuals the opportunities to move throughout the company and into positions that leverage their skills. 

“Companies spend a lot of money training and trying to retain their employees, and someone like a human resources officer who is in charge of a company’s most valuable assets — its employees — should be looked at as valuable enough to head up the company,” Tejada said. 

A woman head of HR is not only qualified, but has specific experience that can be utilized, and that’s where many companies are failing now. Companies need to enable development and offer new opportunities that interest and inspire them. They need the proper resources in place to be successful. 

Tejada referenced EWNJ’s published research, “A Seat at the Table,” which shows that, if a company has more diverse board members, it will have better financial results, better governance and the ability to develop a broad talent pool at all levels. 

What’s the best way to approach having women in these positions?  

Tejada believes it is having the right people in the pipeline — whatever the progression is within the company. 

“Make sure the upward mobility within your company is available for all of your employees,” she said. 

Tejada believes companies that are strategically and intentionally making sure there are women in the pipeline getting those opportunities are the ones that have provided employees with mentors and have led by example, where the upper management is reflective of what the company’s leadership should look like.  

“It is important to have women in the roles as mentors and advocates,” she said. “Have people who can speak highly of individuals when they are not in the room and recognize someone’s leadership abilities and capabilities to lead a team or know her strength.”