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Women Leaders Have Taken Unconventional Paths To Success

Women leaders agree that the ability to perform at a high level and the confidence to make their opinions heard are necessary to career success

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Modern career journeys no longer follow one simple approach for progression. Many female leaders have made non- traditional, sometimes surprising choices in their career – for professional or personal reasons – and it paid off. In fact, the large majority attribute their success to such moves.

A study by Cigna on women in leadership highlights that more than eight in 10 female business leaders (81 percent) agree that career progression isn’t, and shouldn’t be, thought of as linear.

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More than seven in 10 (73 percent) say that the potential for career growth is more important than other factors, including job title or status. Respondents’ advice for the next generation of female leaders includes being open to a variety of career changes (86 percent), such as working outside their skill set.

Focus more on work than glamour

Nearly eight in 10 (79 percent) have made a nontraditional change, such as taking the less glamorous job. And more importantly, 86 percent of those women would credit their current position and advanced skill sets to the career changes they’ve made.

Women leaders agree that the ability to perform at a high level and the confidence to make their opinions heard are necessary to career success.

Equality & confidence

Successful female leaders agree there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to career success, but certain qualities have come into play on their way to the top. Adaptability, determination, and confidence of equal importance are the abilities to know their strengths, speak up and work in a diverse/ inclusive environment.

Eight in 10 respondents (80%) say confidence is an essential trait of successful female leaders. 98 percent believe determination and having a strong desire to succeed is important. 99 percent say having the ability to adapt is important to their career progression.


When thinking about taking a new position, respondents consider salary and benefits (71%), work/life balance (61%), intellectual challenge (54%), smart colleagues (52%) and new experiences (50%).

Work-life balance

Over half the women (51 percent) say that maintaining a healthy work/life balance was essential to their career progression. Other women were considering making changes to gain the skills needed for their dream job (28 percent), gain visibility within their company/ organization (24 percent) or make a bigger contribution to their company/organization.

Seven in 10 (70 percent) say their success was made possible by the mentorship of other female leaders. Nine in 10 (90 percent) have had at least one mentor throughout the course of their careers.



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