For a better experience, click the Compatibility Mode icon above to turn off Compatibility Mode, which is only for viewing older websites.

Uneven Paths to Shared Leadership

Posted on August 17, 2018

By Lynn Yeakel

Indra Nooyi recently announced that she will step down as CEO of PepsiCo, in part to spend more time with her family. She joins a growing list of departing female chief executives, following Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup, Margo Georgiadis of Mattel, Sherilyn McCoy at Avon, Irene Rosenfeld at Mondelez and Meg Whitman at Hewlett-Packard—all of whom have been replaced by men, as will Nooyi. This year alone, there has been a 25 percent drop in women CEOs at S&P 500 companies. Famous for saying “I don’t think women can have it all” and “Leave the crown in the garage,” Nooyi hasn’t shied away from discussing the struggles and double standards that still plague women in the workforce, even those in top leadership positions.

Next month, Vision 2020 will host its sixth National Congress in Miami, titled “Paths to Shared Leadership” to focus on its national goal of 50-50 shared leadership among women and men in business and government. It’s time for us to consider how achieving top leadership positions may be different for women than for men, and what can be done to even out those paths.

Nobody promised that Vision 2020’s goal of shared leadership would be easy to reach. It’s particularly challenging in the executive ranks of major companies where men have a two-century head start. There are clearly not enough women in the corporate pipeline.

The temptation is to assume that the replacement of the six women CEO’s with men is unfair. But there are many complex explanations and opinions as to why this happened, described in a recent New York Times column by Andrew Ross Sorkin.

Strategies for reaching a 50-50 gender balance in government are different. We can regularly influence the progress toward that goal by faithfully using the ballot box. In business, to compete in the numbers, we must overcome some built-in obstacles. That should not surprise us. If any woman has found a road without obstacles, chances are it’s not taking her to anywhere worth going.

Three steps will help: (1) recognizing the essential nature of family-friendly policies that acknowledge a woman’s unique role in the family and do not impede her climb up the management ladder; (2) enlisting the cooperation of enlightened men who understand the value that women leaders bring to business success, and (3) supporting women in the early stages of their careers so they are promoted at the same rate as their male counterparts.

Next month in Miami, at Vision 2020’s National Congress, we’ll be putting all the Shared Leadership issues on the table. We’ll be doing this based on the belief that waiting around for someone else to rescue us is to forget to act like the majority we are.