View From the Top: Women in the C-Suite Making A Path for Others to Follow

I t’s no secret that most of the top corporate leadership positions are dominated by men. In fact, according to the BoardEx data, only 5% of CEOs are women and 19.2% of corporate leadership team members are female — despite the fact that women’s labor force participation rate is 58.4% .

How is it that women make up the majority of the workforce, yet somehow do not hold many of the positions of power that impact the overall work environment? That’s why women who somehow manage to break through the gender limitations and thresholds to land a coveted position in the C-suite have become true pioneers for other career women hoping to do the same.

We had the chance to hear from a few pioneer women who have made it to the C-suite. They are leaving a path for others to follow. Here’s what we learned from them.

“Nothing comes overnight.”

Janice Dupré is the Executive Vice President, Human Resources, and Chief Diversity Officer at Lowe’s, a Fortune 50 home improvement company that employs approximately 300,000 associates. She is responsible for the global human resources strategy practices and operations, diversity and inclusion and oversees the company’s corporate communications, community relations, and corporate events planning and execution while serving as chair of the Lowe’s Foundation. Becoming an executive vice president is a milestone achievement that only about 3% of black women have been able to do.

Prior to her current role, Dupré has held multiple senior managementlevel positions at Dell, Inc., in D&I, talent acquisition and global corporate responsibility. However, Dupré’s journey to making history didn’t come overnight. When asked about the biggest contributors to the acceleration of her career, Dupré stated, “I have a few. One, I am open and willing to trust my instinct, even when the plan isn’t clear – I believe in the journey. Two, I put in the work, and I am humble enough to ask for help when I need it.”

“It takes active leadership.”

Denise Brooks-Williams is no stranger to leadership. She started her career in management at Mercy Hospital and for years has been an active leader in community, charitable, and professional organizations, including serving as president of the National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE) and a past chair of the United Way Community ServicesNeighborhood.

Now, Brooks-Williams is the Senior Vice President and Chief Executive Officer, Market Operations at Henry Ford Health, where she is responsible for the strategic planning and implementation, supporting new health center sites and overseeing 8,000 employees.

Over the years, she found value in not only having mentors and sponsors, but also being a mentor herself. When asked what makes an effective leader, BrooksWilliams says— “I believe in paying it forward by supporting the career path of team members who desire to grow and learn. I was blessed to have great mentors in my life and now I try to be an ambassador by sharing my experiences”

“Never be afraid to swim upstream.”

Tracey Brown is President of Walgreens retail and Chief Customer Officer, overseeing the transformation of Walgreens to a healthcare company, to create more joyful lives through better health. Her journey to becoming president wasn’t typical. In fact, Brown was serving as senior vice president of operations and chief experience officer at Sam’s Club when the work she was doing in her personal life made the American Diabetes Association (ADA) take notice.

Brown was diagnosed with diabetes and became an advocate for those living with the illness. Her passion as a volunteer with the organization led to a record-setting fundraiser in her community, which ultimately earned her an invitation to join its national board of directors. A few months of impact later, Brown was asked to interview for the organization’s CEO role.

Brown says, “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world” ~Harriet Tubman

“Leave a trail.”

Marie McLucas is the Chief Financial Officer for Primax Properties and is responsible for oversight of policies and procedures for all financial functions, along with strategic and succession planning. Since joining Primax in 1995, Marie has been instrumental in the successful completion of over 1000 projects in 35 states, including 25 projects under development. Marie is a repeat mentor for CBJ’s Mentoring Monday event, CREW’s national and local formal mentor programs and the NCACPA.

Marie serves/served on the boards of Girl Scouts, Hornets’ Nest Council, Career Mastered, American Cancer Society (Area), CREW Charlotte and CREW Network Foundation, holding many chair, officer, and co-chair positions. She is passionate about the advancement of women and young professionals in the community. Marie has mentored hundreds of women over her professional tenure and continues to promote women. When asked about what keeps her going, she says the quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson inspires her, “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Seeing ourselves represented in higher ranks has the power to plant seeds in our imagination, signifying to us to believe that yes, we can too. That’s exactly what these women in the C-suite are doing. They’re breaking barriers and proving that women in fact can have it all… the money, power, and respect. Their vision and faith to turn their dreams into reality coupled with the sheer determination to overcome adversity is something we can all learn from to help accelerate our careers.

Jasmine Ball is a wife, mom, award-winning journalist, and founder of BTM Writing Services. Throughout her career, she’s been helping companies all over the world get confidence over their content and grow their businesses. With God at the center, Jasmine’s life mission is to use her gift to connect people to resources that will help them live more informed, inspired, and overall better lives.

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