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profit, loss, riskBy Amy Franko

In the landscape of women in leadership, the usual statistics look at the number of women in the overall workforce (over 50%), and compare that figure to the number of women in mid-level and senior leadership, corporate board service, and the CEO suite.

A recent article and statistic grabbed my attention:

In Fortune 500 companies, only about 1 in 10 women hold P&L jobs.

That puts a lot of things in perspective when compared to the small percentage of women who serve on the boards or as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies (about 14% and 4% respectively).  Line-of-business roles with P&L responsibility tend to be the primary paths to board service and the CEO suite. Most women leaders are in staff-related, non-line roles.

To increase the number of women serving on boards of publicly traded companies or as Fortune 500 CEOs, it makes perfect sense to build a pipeline of emerging women leaders with P&L experience.

Here are some practical ways, as an emerging leader, that you can gather P&L experience prior to having that responsibility in an actual line of business role:

  • Get into a sales role, and preferably one with direct quota responsibility.  I was fortunate enough to get into sales early in my career, with direct responsibility for a $10-12 million territory.  It was a mini P&L in many respects.  I was responsible for overall strategy, customer and product mix, and business development of the territory, and my performance metrics were tied to the revenue and profit I achieved.
  • Shadow someone with P&L responsibility.  Spend time with a leader who is responsible for a line of business and its P&L.  Learn as much as you can about how that line of business operates.  You might even request a stretch assignment to spend more time in that line of business.
  • Spend time with the finance department.  Find someone in finance to walk you through a P&L statement.  Learn the terminology, what makes the organization tick financially, and about the opportunities and risk points.
  • Take a class. Look for formal learning opportunities as well.  One great resource is Coursera, a company that partners with world-class universities to deliver online courses on a variety of topics (including finance), completely free.

Visit for more information about custom training solutions and professional development services offered by Impact Instruction Group.  Amy Franko works with emerging women leaders, teaching concepts from the international best-sellers Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office and See Jane Lead to many national companies and organizations.

© 2013 Impact Instruction Group

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