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The perception that women must be seen to be “one of the guys” in order to do well in the workplace is a common one.
It is a view partly shared by Michael Treschow, the chairman of Unilever, who told me some time ago that the dynamics of male and female upbringing can determine why women at some companies feel excluded from taking their place at the table.
Egon Zehnder International, the executive search firm, has looked at the background of the CEOs in the FT’s ranking of the top 50 women in world business. All but three share one crucial attribute: they’ve had hands-on management experience.
This puts them in a minority even among women in business. A separate EZI study of female executive directors in Europe shows over 70 per cent are in support functions, such as finance, human resources or marketing. Yet line management is the route to the top. For instance, the FT’s number 6, Ursula Burns, started in various assistant roles at Xerox but used the role of vice-president of global manufacturing as a stepping stone to the CEO job. (more…)