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The Now, The New & The Next in Careers

Developing Female Leaders: It Needs to Start Early

12 Dec 2012 7:05 PM | Anonymous

By Joan Runnheim Olson

According to Catalyst (, the leading nonprofit organization expanding opportunities for women and business, "Women currently hold 3.8 percent of Fortune 500 CEO positions and 4.0 percent of Fortune 1000 CEO positions." What accounts for the low number of women in high-ranking positions and what steps can be done to help increase the number of women in leadership positions? 

Gender Stereotypes  Stereotypes still exist as far as how females and males “should” act. Females are expected to be the quiet and nurturing “type,” while males are seen as the strong, take charge gender. These stereotypes can greatly impact whether a female pursues a leadership role from as early as elementary school and continues throughout their career. According to a study referred to in an article, ( Why Girls Need Mentors, published in The Glass Hammer, “nearly 40% of girls said they have been laughed at or put down for “being bossy” when trying to lead.” The study goes on to say that, “This is a reminder of the reality that many women face in the workforce – walking the fine line between being liked and being a leader.“

Leadership Development  Girls can start developing their leadership skills early in life, beginning with an organization such as Girl Scouts, which helps girls build courage, confidence, and character. Throughout school, girls can join and participate in career and technical student organizations (CTSO's) such as Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA). These organizations offer competitive events and opportunities to participate in leadership roles. Counselors, educators, and parents can help girls and young women find a female leader to act as a mentor. Having "been there, done that," a mentor can help shorten the learning curve by offering tips for success and share how to avoid roadblocks. Educators can invite local high-profile female executives to talk to female students about their career experience. Seeing and hearing someone of their gender share their career path will help them see that it is possible for them to be a leader also.

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