Identifying talent early might be the antidote to male-dominated boardrooms.

Evelyn Orr, Vice President and COO of Korn Ferry Institute, told Cheddar that that might have been what helped the women executives she spoke to break into the “Boys’ Club”.

“It didn’t occur to them that they could be CEO in their career,” she said, “until someone pointed it out to them and literally tapped them on the shoulder and said, ‘You’ve got what it takes, step-up, let’s do this!”

The lack of women in the C-Suite as been a persistent problem in corporate America. One Peterson Institute study found that a majority of firms have no female board members, and just over half had no female execs at the topmost levels. Fewer than 5 percent had a female CEO.

Orr, who interviewed 57 female execs for her study, puts the onus on companies and encourages leaders to look out for employees that show drive early on.

“Those are the raw ingredients that can lead people to be in the CEO pipeline,” she said.

As for women looking to get an executive position, she says that the best step is to understand how a company operates. “Get close to how the business makes money, seek out jobs that are running a product line, running a P&L,” she said. “The closer women can get to how a business is making money, the better.”

For full interview click here.