Working Mother

Cracking the Code

P&L (profit & loss) experience is critical to becoming a CEO. Yet only 10 percent of P&L jobs are held by women, who comprise only about 5 percent of CEOs at leading corporations.

Why are so few women in this pipeline?

A recent McKinsey study found that about the same number of women and men enter corporate America, but women are underrepresented in P&L and core operational roles at every level. By the time they reach the senior vice president level, women are only 21 percent.

“We find mostly men in the pipeline—the feeder positions—for the top jobs,” says Betty Spence, Ph.D., president of NAFE. Working Mother Research Institute’s “Gender Gap at the Top” research found four reasons for this: lack of awareness about the importance of P&L; failure to develop networks that steer women into these jobs; fear of taking on stretch assignments or new jobs; and corporate cultures that don’t encourage women to move up. “To take the helm of a company, you need proven experience generating revenue and a track record of profitability. P&L executives generally deal with customers or clients, and they often decide what products a division or company makes or what services it sells.”

What can change this trajectory? Our research cites the need for corporate cultures to formalize

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