This week was very exciting for all women in business as it was found out that if no female steps down before the start of the new year, there will be 18 women running Fortune 500 companies in 2012 thanks to the addition of Virginia Rometty as the new CEO of IBM. Pharmaceutical firm Mylan also recently announced that Heather Breschwill succeed Robert Coury as CEO. Both appointments become effective Jan. 1. Plus, in the last few months alone, three other new female CEOs have emerged: Meg Whitman became Hewlett-Packard CEO in September, Denise Morrison took the CEO post at Campbell Soup Company in August and Gracia Martore was named CEO of Gannett earlier this month.
Previously, there haven’t been more than 16 females running Fortune 500 firms at the same time. But though it looks like 2012 will be a huge year for female CEOs, growth for women at the executive level is still stalled in many ways. In 2009, women held 15.2% of Fortune 500 board seats, according to women’s issues research group Catalyst. In both 2009 and 2010, 12% of Fortune 500 companies had no women serving on their boards. Female leaders also only make up about 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs which is just a 1% increase from seven years ago. But this flurry of recent high-level appointments is helping. Their appointments are “setting a fabulous example” in the promotion of female executives, said Jean Bozman, an analyst with IDC. “It does create an environment in which more of these high-ranking women executives can see that’s within reach,” Bozman said. “The more that happens, the more normal that will be. I think this might be a great sign that we’ve turned a corner.”
Ellen Lubin-Sherman, Executive Coach and Author of The Essentials of Fabulous, Because Whatever Doesn’t Work Here Anymore, believes that women who make it into the boardroom are a different breed. “Their confidence is palpable. Their self-assurance is awe-inspiring. Their energy level is enervating, energizing and contagious. And their charisma–you can’t buy that kind of high-wattage aura. The secret: they’re fabulous,” she said. In an article for The Glass Hammer she discussed the five qualities that she believes women in the boardroom must have.