International Women’s Day means something different for me this year: it is the first one I get to celebrate as Chief Executive Officer of a leading market research company with over 160 employees around the world, and I do not take this privilege lightly. It has been a year of new plans, new opportunities, new partners, and new ambitions, and I continue to be excited about the future of our vibrant and thriving industry.
However, I join the ranks of a significant minority, with only 3 senior female CEOs represented on the latest Top 50 SaaS-based technology businesses list. In the 2021 list of Fortune 500 Companies, only 8.1% of CEO positions are held by women: 41 out of 500. As of last year, women are still earning 17.7% less annually than their male counterparts, and only 1 in 4 organizations say advancing women is a top 10 business priority. Given the uphill battle that is still ongoing today, it can be intimidating to be a woman in business, and it can fill you with an entirely new host of reservations. Senior leadership positions present even more unique challenges, but it is also incredibly empowering.
In comparison to statistics from years prior, female CEOs continue to be on the rise. In 2000, only 2 of the top Fortune 500 companies featured female CEOs. We are also seeing these improvements in traditionally male-dominated industries, such as science and technology. More women are graduating with STEM or business degrees, setting up a springboard to careers in senior management.
Even though we as a society are trending steadily towards greater inclusivity, I know firsthand why these disparities exist. As a young girl, a career as such an established leader never felt like it would be within reach. Back then, my worldview was dominated by limited viewpoints, and there weren’t many female role models to look up to. Even though I would have never said that CEO would become my future, my hardworking family instilled in me that with passion and dedication, anything I wanted was within my grasp, woman or not.
Today, I see that mindset advancing every day. In the last few years, we have seen truly groundbreaking events. We welcomed the first female Vice President, Kamala Harris, in the 2020 presidential election. We witnessed the first Black woman to pilot a spacecraft just last year as Sian Proctor took the helm as pilot of the latest SpaceX spaceflight. Janet Yellen became the first woman to head the Treasury Department since it was founded in 1789. To close out Black History Month 2022, Ketanja Brown Jackson has just been nominated, as the first Black woman and federal public defender, to the United States Supreme Court.
Every little girl is witness to the ongoing feminist movement, she can see powerful women in powerful roles, and possibly for the first time, truly believe she is capable of anything. The market research industry continues to push that narrative every day. Whether it is Women in Research (WIRe), ESOMAR’s global efforts, or the Insights Association; our industry organizations champion the voices of women, the struggles they faced in their careers, and the successes they worked so hard to achieve.
I never take my responsibility lightly. I come to work every day, put one foot in front of the other, and I am committed to be an aspirational role model for others. Every woman in market research and beyond deserves the resilience to recognize their merit, and every success they earn. Every International Women’s Day is an important one, but this one seems just a little bit sweeter.
Lisa Wilding-Brown is the Chief Executive Officer of InnovateMR, working to build the industry's most powerful and intuitive research tools, celebrate a culture of inclusivity, and continue the team's uncompromising dedication to delivering high quality insights to amazing clients.
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