Advice from Women at the Top of the Corporate Ladder

Anna Johansson

April 11, 2018

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Although walls and barriers are coming down for women, it is not always easy for females in the corporate scene. Expectations are often skewed, and in some cases, we have to work twice as hard to get where we want to be.

Achieving seniority in a corporation is not an impossible goal, but the odds are not exactly in your favor. Of all the senior management positions in the corporate workforce, women hold only 34%, even though they hold 47.3% of the total labor force.

The number of men in the workforce is nearly the same as the number of women, but there are more than twice as many men as women in senior-level executive positions.

Wealth and power are in reach, but as a woman, if you ever want to step off a privately chartered plane to attend your next business meeting, you have to fight through the ups and downs of corporate and claim your place.

Here are some of the best pieces of advice from women who have fought their way to the top of the corporate ladder.

Follow Your Curiosity

"Be ruthlessly and unendingly curious," Megan Quinn, a partner at Keiner, Perkins, Caufield, & Byers, told Fast Company. "Curiosity is a requirement for identifying great entrepreneurs and companies. Read obsessively across many industries—technology, business, science, education, and so on.

Find smart people in the verticals you are interested in and follow what they are reading, writing, saying, and even tweeting to develop your own point of view. Curiosity is critical."

Quinn also recommends the highly ambitious woman start her career in a startup with growth potential. This type of start offers her a key opportunity to facilitate the startup's growth. Having that kind of experience on your resume is a huge boost to your career.

"Great investors draw from their own personal experience, and it is hard to be a coach if you have never been a player," she concludes.

Embrace Change & Failure

According to StubHub CTO Raji Arasu, learning how to adapt to change and learn from failure is one of the best roles a woman can play in leadership. Adapting is particularly important, she says, when you are a leader in a technology field.

"For those already on this path, be prepared for constant change because it is inherent in everything we do," Arasu told Fast Company. "Technologies evolve on a daily basis. Embracing change allows you to grow the business and help the company stay competitive."

She also urges women to learn from others, especially from their mistakes. The more you learn from others' failures, the less likely you are to make the same mistakes. "As much as possible, seek many external and internal perspectives. I owe much of my success to the many mentors who took time to give me genuinely hard feedback. They helped build a stronger, wiser, and more mature me."


Amy Brandt-Schumacher, president of New Penn Financial, says that women who are prepared and willing to go the extra mile will stand out in the end.

"As a woman, you have to be willing to lean in, deliver, and over deliver," she shared in a LinkedIn article. "I think the key differentiator in creating success is who wants it most. Realize your strengths, review what you need to change, and do what it takes to get yourself to the next level."

Unfortunately, the work of a woman does not always go as far as a man's. Do what it takes and do not look back when you get where you want to be.

Persevere Through Ups & Downs

Your journey to the top of the corporate ladder will involve more highs and lows than you might anticipate when you are just starting out. Learning what it takes to persevere and reach new heights is the secret to reaching new heights.

"Ascending to the corporate heights is a long climb," an anonymous female consultant from Three Bain & Company suggests in a The Globe and Mail article. "It takes aspiration, confidence, and committed mountain guides to persevere. Women are ready to make the trek. Companies that encourage managers to help women actively navigate the path to the top will be more successful at making the most of the talent across their entire workforce."

Success is there for you, too. Learn from those who have gone before and do not let your goals fall by the wayside as you reach for your corporate dreams.

Anna is a freelance writer, researcher, and business consultant. A columnist for,, and more, Anna specializes in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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