#43: Promoting Women to the CEO Role with Luann Abrams
Luann Abrams is the founder of CEOX, an organization whose mission is to elevate women into CEO, C-Suite and board roles. She is a partner in The Abrams Group, advising, investing in, and supporting the people, companies and causes that will leave it better. Prior to starting CEOX, she ran FoundersPad, an early-stage venture fund with a dedicated mentorship program in Bend, OR. Luann has a background in aerospace engineering and spent most of her 15 years in aviation working for a start-up aircraft company in Bend, OR. Here she led the certification engineering program at Columbia Aircraft where she oversaw the certification of several aircraft models and ensured that all designs met applicable regulations. Due to her diligence and integrity she was granted the authority to sign off on regulatory compliance on behalf of the FAA prior to aircraft delivery. When she is not working and living the Bend life with her husband and two sons, you will find her curled up with a good book and a hot cup of coffee.
Top 3 Takeaways
- Women are winners. Luann cited some very compelling research on successful business outcomes that often fall to woman-led companies. We need to level the playing field.
- Beat the system. Whether by design or by default, women face a number of obstacles preventing them from rising to the CEO role. Understand and offset these wherever possible.
- Listen up. Even if you’re not a C-suite leader, you can be an ally for women’s advancement. Be proactive and ask women across your organization about the work experience they’re having then pipe down and listen up.
From the Source
“There's a lot of research showing that women-led companies grow faster, they generate more revenue, they use invested dollars to better effect, they exit earlier, and honestly, my favorite statistic is that they have happier employees. I just like to think about a world with more happy people in it.”
“Worldwide, women really only make up about 5% of CEOs, so there is a long ways to go yet.”
“There is a lot of deep seated bias against women still. We have really grown up in a world that was designed by men for men and not necessarily in this patriarchal ‘we want to keep women down’ way, but just that was the reality of the situation. So we have this complete societal structure that was really created for men's success. It was not created for women's success. So every step of the way, women have barriers to getting to that top spot, to even excelling in their career in general and. It's often really not seen by both men and women.”
“A study just came out yesterday that I was reading about that shows that high level women are often not given promotions and they're not given pay raises because they're seen as loyal so they don't need to have those additional incentives to stay at a company. Whereas men are seen as more often jumping ship to the next best thing. So more and more companies are incentivized to give them promotions and give them pay raises.”
“Most board roles—most C-suite roles in general—are really hired within who you know. I think most people's first place they go to look for anyone is their own network, and most of us have networks that are most reflective of ourselves because we network with people that make us feel comfortable, and we feel most comfortable with people that look like us and think like us and act like us.”
“If there's one common sentiment I hear across the women of CEOX is that they want their next thing to be impactful. It's not just about making money. It's really about leaving the world a better place.”
“You have to take the blinders off. I can't even tell you how often I will do one of my talks in a big group of people, men and women, and I will get men coming up to me saying, ‘Oh, I had no idea that stuff happened.’ For example, women get interrupted 30% more than men get interrupted in a meeting. Men aren't aware of it because it doesn't happen to them.”
“Listen to the women that you are working with and understand some of the barriers they're facing.”
“I always say that if somebody is feeling comfortable enough to give you that feedback, that is actually a compliment to you because it means that they trust you. You will take it as it's meant to be taken, and that they trust you with solving it. You really need to be concerned if you're not getting any negative feedback ever. That's the big red flag.”
“I love the idea that if I place a woman in a CEO role, she's now surrounded with a bunch of really smart, experienced women that she can go to for help if she needs it to navigate some of the difficult things that she's going to find in those roles.”
Connect with Luann
Reference (“She E O”)
- “Women CEOs of the S&P 500” - https://www.catalyst.org/research/women-ceos-of-the-sp-500