Last year may have been hailed as the year of the woman, but there still aren’t nearly enough skirts in the boardroom. According to the 2012 Catalyst Census, only 14 percent of Fortune 500 executives are women. So how do we get more women like Indra Nooyi (CEO of PepsiCo, Marissa Mayer (CEO of Yahoo!) and Ursula Burns (CEO of Xerox) in the C-suite? Hot jobs might be the answer.

Hot Jobs

“Hot jobs” are positions that combine three things: highly visible projects, mission-critical roles and international experiences. A recent study by Catalyst, a nonprofit whose goal is to expand opportunities for women and business, shows that hot jobs are important because they are excellent predictors of who climbs up the corporate ladder. A big reason why hot jobs are good indicators of advancement is because most of an employee’s development comes from being on the job. Leadership development experts typically agree on the 70/20/10 model, which says that 10 percent of an employee’s development comes from formal training; 20 percent from mentoring and networking; and a whopping 70 percent from on-the-job experiences. Since hot jobs are big-budget, big-time positions, they provide the kinds of challenges, training and growth opportunities that lead to promotions. The question we should be asking then is not whether women are leading projects but are women leading the right projects?

The answer appears to be not yet. In Catalyst’s study, men outnumbered women on each of the hot job hallmarks. With three times the staff and double the budget of women’s projects, men’s projects had higher visibility. Men also had greater access to roles that could be classified as mission critical: more men than women had profit and loss responsibility, managed direct reports, and were in charge of a budget greater than $10 million. As for international experience, even among those willing to relocate, men were more likely to get tapped to work abroad.

Although clearly out-numbered by men for now, the good news is that progress is being made. For the first time ever, women are holding more than 1 in 10 board seats globally, according to GMI Ratings’ 2012 Women on Boards survey. If we know that hot jobs lead to boardroom seats, might strategically targeting them melt the glass ceiling?

5 Tips to Work Toward a Hot Job

1. Be aware of the size and scope of your projects relative to those of your colleagues.

2. Identify what the next level of responsibility is for your role and target it in your development plan.

3. Volunteer for high profile assignments and mission-critical projects, or take the initiative to pitch your own (well-thought out) ideas to your team/boss.

4. If you are game for relocating or traveling, make your interest known to your company.

5. Physical travel isn’t always possible or desirable, so look for opportunities to work virtually with global counterparts.

 What are some tips you’ve heard to end up in the C-suite? Tell us in the comments!