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Beyond the C-Suite: What Are You the CEO of?

Laura Gordon - Former Managing Director

What do you think it means to be the CEO? I’ll give you a hint: It doesn’t have to mean you sit in the C-suite. CEOs are everywhere. They are the mentors who have coached us, the colleagues who have motivated us, the teachers who have inspired us, even the parents who raised us. They are the fearless leaders of their own lives who work tirelessly to improve the lives of others.

At The Rockefeller Foundation, we are exploring what makes a successful CEO and subsequently, the effects a successful CEO can have on a company, its employees, and beyond. Last year, we launched 100×25—an effort born from the Foundation’s work to create more inclusive economies—with the goal of seeing 100 women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies by the year 2025.

We know this is an ambitious target given that the number of women leaders in Fortune 500 companies has stagnated. Currently, only 5 percent of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are women. Despite this, we know that people understand the value women bring to leadership roles. In a survey we conducted last year, more than 70 percent of Americans said having more women in leadership positions would have significant impacts on the workplace.

The 100×25 campaign recognizes that when women are at the helm (and when half the workforce is no longer held back), both company and family benefits abound. More equitable pay for both men and women, more family-friendly views on childcare, and more diversified perspectives and approaches to business are just a few of the many examples. Perhaps most importantly, when younger women and girls look up and see women in these top positions, they are more likely to envision themselves as leaders.

The goal of 100×25 is unbelievably bold, but so are the women it aims to support.

It’s only fitting, then, that this year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Be Bold for Change.” Across societies and cultures, we need to be bold and ensure women have an equal number of seats at the table and a loud voice in shaping the future. While there’s still a long way to go in terms of realizing true gender equity in the workplace, this theme provides a unique moment to step back and think about the ways women are already the “CEO” of in their own lives. After all, how can women lead the charge forward into corporate board rooms if they are not emboldened by their already abundant accomplishments?

As a professional, as a leader, and as a mother, I am continually inspired by the women and girls around me who are CEOs in their own right. From the teachers that manage my children’s classroom, to my colleagues and friends who lead meetings, lead organizations, and lead boardrooms, and to mothers who manage and shape their families.

If these women are any indication of our capacity for change, I believe we can reach our goal of 100×25, and reshape offices and boardrooms for the better. But first, we need to be proud of all that women have done and continue to do.

So I’ll ask you: What are you the CEO of? Share with us on social media using #100×25 and join the conversation.

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