At first glance, I was pleased to see the recent figures from the annual Women CEO Report showing a rise in the number of new female CEOs of U.S. businesses last year. Out of some 1,200 U.S. firms, 22 percent put a woman at the helm in 2018, compared with around 15 percent in 2014.

Welcome news, yes, but not the watershed moment it was deemed by some media. The truth is, the statistics for women in top jobs and on executive boards remain pretty dismal. Last year the number of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies was just 5.4 percent and had even dropped from the year before. This isn’t just a C-Suite issue. There are still also fewer females in key industries—politics, medicine and finance in particular.


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As a young female CEO running a global business, I’m passionate about female empowerment and changing work culture to encourage more female leadership. At Quintessentially, I work in an environment surrounded by high achieving, independent and talented women. Within our business, 70 percent of our C-Suite executives globally are female. The company founders (all men) were always conscious of building a meritocracy—from the beginning they offered an entrepreneurial yet nurturing culture, encouraging mentorship and growth of talent which they measured from passion, experience and a willingness to learn, regardless of gender. Here’s how and why we’re working to empower our female employees globally.


It’s not just within the walls of Quintessentially that I see female empowerment. Our business offers luxury lifestyle management to the world’s high net worth community. Our members are successful and connected, and year after year our female membership is rising. What was once a solid 70:30 male/female split is now getting closer to equal. Our female clients are board leaders, entrepreneurs and busy executives running multiple businesses. Their ambition and success are inspiring to our many female employees, and it’s important to them that the company they trust for their lifestyle management encourages the growth and development of female leaders too.


Seeing other women rise up within Quintessentially and take on exciting and inspiring leadership roles has helped us recruit strong female talent. Quintessentially has always encouraged an entrepreneurial spirit. Although many of our employees are recent graduates, we believe in our new starters’ capabilities and reward those who work hard and take risks. We give responsibility and opportunities to young talent and encourage them to drive their own projects. Female pioneers at our company have led successful new projects such as our Art, Education and Real Estate division, and this has paved the way for others to suggest new business ideas regardless of age, gender or paygrade.


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We work in a fast paced, constantly changing environment and know that flexibility is key to productivity and morale. We encourage our team to work flexibly—from home, or anywhere else, if it means they will be in a better place that day to get the job done efficiently. We appreciate that we have strong female talent around the world, so we offer generous maternity packages and support them with a back-to-work process that works for them and for us. As a leader, I trust my team to give their best effort every day, just as I do, and to make work/life balance a priority. To do this you have to provide a connected, challenging and happy environment.


One of the first things I introduced as CEO was a mentoring scheme. I’ve been lucky to be inspired by many mentors throughout my career: My first boss, still a great mentor, was a successful entrepreneur and mother of four children. She was incredibly hardworking, passionate and tenacious in her role but still managed to make time for herself, her family and friends. She taught me a huge amount about leadership—how to be braver and how to keep learning. That experience inspired me to start a mentorship program at Quintessentially. We pair new starters with an experienced mentor within the business or from our partner companies or contacts. Developing future talent early in their careers is so important, and it works both ways. We can learn tremendously from others of all ages and experiences by talking and sharing ideas. I am a mentor and learn just as much—if not more—from my mentee as she does from me. Watching her really listen to advice and be bold and take fearless steps has been a constant reminder for me to do the same.

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As a young leader, I believe that the idea of the middle-aged, male, alpha and unemotional boss is outdated. Many women have imposter syndrome because they believe that to be at the top they have to be aggressive or more corporate, and to have proved their worth. A leadership course I took taught me how to take a softer approach and the importance of being open and emotionally intelligent as a leader. Being human in business, listening to others, being open to new experiences and having an interest in people and their stories is a better way to unlock employees’ full potential and therefore business productivity. It’s been proven that traditionally feminine skills like having compassion, listening and a willingness to learn as a leader means you get far more out of a team.

Annastasia Seebohm is Group CEO of Quintessentially. She will be speaking at the Women & Worth Summit March 29 in New York.