Why are we still celebrating first female CEOs?

If your industry hasn’t yet had a female chief, you won’t see me clapping when you finally catch up.

by Orianna Rosa Royle
Last Updated: 11 Sep 2020

When Citigroup Inc announced that Jane Fraser will succeed Mike Corbat as its CEO, headlines hailed how it had made history as the first big Wall Street bank to be run by a female. 

Some championed the move as “groundbreaking”, but that shouldn't take away from the astonishing fact that it’s taken until 2020 for a woman to reach the role of chief executive at a Wall Street bank. 

Finally, I sighed.

We had something similar last year Royal Bank of Scotland was praised when it announced that Alison Rose would become its first female CEO and the first to head up one of Britain’s big four banks (RBS, HSBC, Barclays and Lloyds).

The excruciatingly slow progress of pulling female candidates through the ranks isn’t really something to cheer. In Britain, women have been employed by banks since 1894, yet over a century later, just around 30 per cent of senior managers are female, according to the Bank of England.

It pains me to wonder when will a female CEO be so normal that it’s no longer newsworthy.

We must stop celebrating when one woman has smashed through the glass ceiling, because then all we really focus on is the fact they're a woman, rather than what they bring to the table.

Instead, we need to question why we are still getting gender equality firsts in the 21st century, and what we can do to change it, quickly.

To paraphrase Neil Armstrong: it may be one giant leap for Wall Street, but it's only one small step for womankind.  

Image credit: uzenzen via Getty Images


Orianna Rosa Royle recommends

The rise of the freelance manager

Read more

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

How I pivoted to a direct-to-consumer model

As health consciousness increased because of Covid-19, so did the demand for kombucha. But with...

Recruitment hacks: How to find a diamond in the rough

Management Today’s panel of leaders share their tips for finding non-obvious talent.

How I negotiated a senior job share

“Job sharing saved my career because I would have otherwise given it up out of...

Howard Davies: "Reopening will be rather like starting again"

NatWest Group's chairman ponders post-Brexit trade, business support and the perfect interlude to a Zoom...

My boss told me to 'suck up the stress' - and I listened ...

The leaders that made me: Daryl Woodhouse’s workaholic tendencies eventually caught up with him.