Succeeding in a male-dominated industry

women in business leader

Andrea Jung, President and CEO of Grameen America and keynote at the Vistage Women in Leadership 2021 National CEO Conference, delivered a presentation full of learnings for female SMB leaders — and full of heart.

Reflecting on her early success at Avon, Andrea shared she was driven by the company’s pioneering vision of giving women economic independence. It’s a vision that inspired Andrea to stay the course, even when she was at first passed over for the role of CEO. “I followed my compass, not my clock,” she said.

Eighteen months later, Andrea did become Avon’s first female CEO, a role for which she is credited with more than tripling Avon’s profits and transforming the organization into the company for women.

Today the longest-tenured female Fortune 500 CEO, Andrea has battle-tested advice to share on succeeding in a male-dominated industry. Read below for some of her “key qualities of successful leaders.”

  1. KEY QUALITY: Compassion.

    Raised to be “an obedient daughter,” Andrea’s father doubted she had the aggressiveness needed to succeed as a CEO, saying as much in an early interview with Dan Rather. Rather than viewing empathy as a weakness, Andrea embraced it as bringing a critical layer of authenticity to her leadership. In doing so, it greatly boosted her EQ.


    • Stay who you are.
    • Respect people even in times of difficult decisions.
    • Hone your listening skills. Make sure your voice is heard, but don’t talk over people. You do not need to have the last word.
  2. KEY QUALITY: Courage.

    Business is not for the faint of heart, Andrea shared, and this past year is good example. “When you are the boss, everything ladders up to you,” she said. “Everything good that happens is because of the team. Everything bad is the responsibility of the leader at the top of the food chain.”


    • Have the courage to say what’s right, even if others go left.
    • A hallmark of resilient leaders is learning how not to be afraid, especially when it comes to failing. Just make sure you’re failing forward!
  3. KEY QUALITY: Perseverance.

    This is an inflection point for women. This moment is a challenge, but it is also an important opportunity.


    • Learn from every difficult situation.
    • Bloom where you’re planted.
    • Embrace the challenge. It may be what gets you to the top.
  4. KEY QUALITY: Humility.

    Absence of ego is a difference-maker in influencing others. If you were fired on Friday and they brought in someone new on Monday, what would that person do differently?


    • Be humble. Embrace you don’t know more than you do know.
    • Be objective about where and how you need to grow, as the challenges you face are ever-changing.
    • Make the call, and don’t look back. Don’t feel guilty for decisions you make to balance personal and professional priorities. Instead, be fully present wherever you are.
  5. KEY QUALITY: Pride.

    Be proud of what you’ve accomplished, so you may pave the way for those coming behind you. As a woman in leadership, every little thing you do matters as it pertains to the path to equality. Every decision has an implication.


    • As a woman, embrace the unique qualities you bring to the board room.
    • As a CEO, don’t steal the limelight. Make it “someone else’s success” to build loyalty and motivation in the team.

Andrea believes the next 5-10 years represent a turning point for women in leadership, and she emphasized the importance of peer support and community. There is real power — and imminent change — in women supporting women.

Category : Leadership

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About the Author: Vistage Staff

Vistage facilitates confidential peer advisory groups for CEOs and other senior leaders, focusing on solving challenges, accelerating growth and improving business performance. Over 45,000 high-caliber execu

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