Female CEOs Are Not Born But Forged From the Fires of Time

Indra Nooyi of Pepsi CoWomen too can become CEOs — as long as they demonstrate twice as much perseverance, dedication, and loyalty as men, according to the Harvard Business Review.

The consistent theme in the data is that steady focus wins the day. The median long stint for these women CEOs is 23 years spent at a single company in one stretch before becoming the CEO. To understand whether this was the norm, we pulled a random sample of their male Fortune 500 CEO counterparts. For the men in the sample, the median long stint is 15 years. This means that for women, the long climb is over 50% longer than for their male peers.

Most women who make it to the C-suite start out in the mailroom, so to speak.

Mary Barra, now the CEO of General Motors, started out with the company as college co-op student. Kathleen Mazzearella started out as a customer service representative at Greybar, the company she would eventually become the CEO of more than 30 years later. All told, over 70 percent of the 24 CEOs spent more than ten years at the company they now run, becoming long-term insiders before becoming CEO.

It’s normal for millennials to play employment hopscotch these days, quitting and switching jobs as needed. According to these data, though, it seems like women who have their eyes on the prize can’t afford to go the “consulting” route; if they want to make it, they do indeed have to lean in — and stay put.

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