Do you have your eyes set on a C-suite position?  Are you aspiring to become a top executive?  If so, then this is the article for you. Five steps to position yourself for an executive management job.

Women in C-Suite Positions.

According to Catalyst, women hold 26.5% of executive and senior manager positions in S&P 500 companies.  This number has increased over the past decade, demonstrating that representation of women amongst the highest ranks of major organization is slowly climbing.  

Despite this, diversity experts continue to point out that more proactive steps are needed to ensure that female representation in the c-suite reflects the 50% of women in the general workforce.

While only 6 percent of chief executive officers are female, women are more highly represented in other executive roles like human resources, general counsel, marketing, and legal.

The gap in male versus female executive pay is also narrowing.  

Morningstar’s most recent report note that the highest paid women in senior roles earned 81.5 cents compared to men in the same position.  The disparity was greater in 2019 at 84.6 cents. (An interesting anomaly amongst these trends is that female CEOs were compensated higher than their male counterparts.)

The growing number of women in the c-suite and the declining pay disparity at that level is good news if you aspire to a “chief” role.  

Whether you are a young woman just starting out in your corporate career or a mid level manager who already has some experience in your field, you CAN create your path to the c-suite.  

Other women have successfully done it.  And so can you.  

Actionable Steps to the C-Suite.

Here are five actionable steps you can take.

1. Learn everything you can about your target c-suite role.  

You want to make sure you have a clear and realistic understanding of the position and all the qualifications and experiences needed.  

Leverage all the resources at your disposal.

Seek informational interviews with people who currently or previously held the position within or outside of your company. 

Research the “chief” position online by looking at job descriptions on Indeed.com, Ladders, or Google for Jobs.  And search for profiles on LinkedIn who have the same job title and review their career trajectory. 

2. Ask for feedback from your boss, colleagues, and friends.  

Solicit objective feedback from others who work with and know you well.  Ask for their take on your strengths, skills and development areas.

3. Conduct a gap analysis.  

Take inventory of your current skills, experiences, and credentials (including the feedback you solicited from others) and compare that to what is required in the executive position.  

This gaps you identify will provide a starting point for specific skills and experiences you will want to obtain as you navigate your career.

4. Map out your career path.  

When you have a long-term target c-suite position in mind, it is important to determine the specific steps you will take to get the role.  

Between where you are now and that ultimate position, you will need to make deliberate career decisions to ensure you continuously acquire new skills, deepen your credibility, and expand your responsibilities.  

Putting together a step by step plan will help you to remain focused. 

This plan is meant to serve as a proactive guide, rather than a rigid course.  In other words, it should be treated as a living document that you update and adjust throughout your career.

FREE RESOURCE: Use this simple, comprehensive development plan to map out your steps to the c-suite.

5. Get a sponsor (or two, or three).  

As you look forward in your career, make sure you are seen and recognized for your skills and contributions.  

In some instances, recognition will be the natural outcome of your hard work.  

However, your hard work can be amplified by obtaining a sponsor – a senior level professional who will not only share their advice and experience with you, but who will also advocate on your behalf and catapult your visibility.  

Bonus: Two Differentiators to Boost Your C-Suite Qualifications.

To really boost your prospects of landing your dream executive position, you should also ensure that you embrace and lead change and take on profit and loss (P&L) responsibility throughout your career.  

These two factors are repeatedly highlighted as differentiators amongst talent vying for high ranking positions.  It will not be enough to be a senior thought leader in your given profession or industry.  

More importantly, you will need to demonstrate a capability and history of successfully championing and leading change on projects, in teams and across organizations.

Similarly, managing a P&L is one experience that many women aspiring to the executive ranks do not have as part of their work portfolio. 

Being able to generate revenue, reduce expenses, and effectively manage a budget contributes to the organization’s bottom line. A critical component of most executive responsibilities.

Final Thoughts.

The data shows that women are making headway in the c-suite, slowly but surely, even despite recent global economic challenges.

But this progress has not been by chance. 

If your career goal is to obtain a “chief” position, focus, tenacity and deliberate career decisions will be required.  Plan your path to success.