Woman to Woman: How Female CEOs found success

Breaking through the glass ceiling

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - When you hear the words "chief executive officer" do you automatically envision a man? It's stereotypical, but the fact is a very small percentage of women are CEOs.

Two women from the Carolinas are among that small minority - successfully making their way to the top office. How did they do it? And what can we learn from them? WBTV's Christine Sperow sat down with these women for a pow-wow.

As CEO, Susan DeVore and her 2,000 employees at Premier, Inc., headquartered in Ballantyne, work to improve the quality of healthcare.

North Carolina native Janice Bryant-Howroyd is a self-made billionaire as the CEO of Act 1 Group, with two staffing offices in Charlotte. These ladies run two very different companies, yet both would agree they would like to see more women hold that chief executive officer title.

"Well today about five percent of public company CEOs are female. So I think we have to work on getting them into the pipeline. We have to get them into the leadership roles and we have to get them on the boards (of directors)," says DeVore.

"Had you even aspired to be your own boss? To run your own company?," asks WBTV's Christine Sperow to Howroyd. "Let me tell you this," she says smiling, "When I grew up in Tarboro, North Carolina, one of 11 children… same mom, same dad… I did not dream that one day I would be the CEO, the founder of a global business."

WEB EXTRA: Christine Nelson held a Facebook Live chat about finding success in life

Both women have families so we threw that question at them they have been asked before: How do you balance holding the top job with family life?

"I really have learned over the years, and I try to share this with other women, that you have to make your own rules. The rules of the world may or may not apply to how you're going to balance your whole life," DeVore says.

"I think the answer for me: I don't expect balance to be 50/50. Sometimes it's 80/20. Sometimes it's 100/0," says Howroyd.

Where did their rise to the top start? DeVore says it's in her blood. Her father's career was in healthcare too. Personal experiences also underscored her passion to make healthcare better for others.

"My dad died of a stroke. My mom died of a healthcare system acquired infection. And my grandson had an experience with healthcare that was pretty serious," says DeVore. "Everyday people at Premier wake up and say how are we going to make healthcare safer, higher quality, more affordable, for millions of Americans."

For Howroyd, her parents taught them at a young age working together as family would mean achieving what wasn't always provided to them… especially back in the segregated south. Today, six of Howroyd's siblings work for her company.

"They do dynamic work," says Howroyd. "They don't interfere with the opportunity for other employees to see their mobility and their career path and i credit that to my parents."

As we walked the halls of Premier you sense that same unified front.

"We do a lot with women around their brand, their identity, their confidence." DeVore adds, "I actually think it's our pay it forward. We need to mentor women. We need to have programs for women. We need to look for talent in all the forms that it comes in. And really create ways for women to advance."

If advancing means being at your best, Howroyd adds, "Only when you're taking great care of yourself, and I mean spiritually and physically, can you bring a 100% performance to your day." Advice that, ironically, crosses gender lines.

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