In 2019, the number of female CEOs on the Fortune 500 list hit a new record, with 33 of the country’s highest-grossing firms being led by women. While that’s a significant achievement, it accounts for only 6.6 percent of CEOs on the list.
Women have long been subjected to gender bias and other forms of discrimination in the workplace. One in four females faces workplace harassment, most of it unreported, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. These obstacles have historically prevented many women from achieving executive positions, but have not stopped aspiring women from pushing forward.
Last month, women entrepreneurs gathered at LMHQ, a collaborative workspace in lower Manhattan, to listen to female founders discuss gender bias, hardships and tips for success. The breakfast panel featured four founders in industries ranging from beauty to fashion to tech to finance.
The panelists, three of whom have been on the Forbes 30 under 30 list, each recounted being told that their work and expertise were not suitable for the positions they sought.
Michelle Kaminer, vice president of the women-run cannabis company Popped NYC, attended the event after hearing about it from a colleague. “The greatest piece of advice that I heard today was knowing the voice of insecurity,” she said. “If it’s not your voice try to shush it out and be confident that you’re in a great place and appreciate where you are.”
Marie Berry, CEO and co-founder of marketing platform Kara, attended the breakfast to share her journey to success. “I recently heard that it will take another 100 years to achieve complete gender equality worldwide. This is definitely a sobering outlook,” she said. “But as a female founder, I take this as a call to action to push harder for equality, so that my daughter doesn’t have to deal with this when she’s in the workforce.”
In a recent interview with CNN Business, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon announced that the bank will no longer take companies public unless they have “at least one diverse board member,” with a focus on women. Citing initial public offering data from the past four years, Solomon noted that U.S. companies with at least one female executive performed better than those comprised solely of men.
Fortune 500 companies with women at the helm include General Motors, Best Buy and Kohls. Only three of the 33 women-led companies made the top 50. In July of 2019, AutoNation promoted Cheryl Miller to CEO, making her the only woman to run a publicly-held company in South Florida and adding her to the short list of women who lead publicly-held companies throughout the state.