Dear AWEE Stakeholders,
Here we are, five decades after the modern women’s movement began and women still lag far behind men in leadership positions.
It’s a fact so hard to wrap my head around when you consider that women represent nearly 51 percent of the U.S. population, earn almost 60 percent of all undergraduate and master’s degrees, are 40 percent of the American labor force and 59 percent of the college-educated, entry-level workforce.
And yet, the Center for American Progress (CAP) reported that women are only 14.6 percent of executive officers, 8.1 percent of top earners and 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs. Women also only hold 16.9 percent of Fortune 500 board seats. Women of color face an even wider gap.
Barnard College President Debora Spar calls the trend the 16 percent ghetto: “if you look at any sector, be it aerospace engineering, Hollywood films, higher education or Fortune 500 leading positions, women max out at roughly 16 percent,” Newsweek quoted her as saying.” “That is a crime, and it is a waste of incredible talent.”
Sure, we’ve made progress. In 1980 there were no women in top executive ranks at Fortune 100 companies.
And yet, a recent Pew Research Center report on social and demographic trends said that “Americans widely believe that men have a better shot at leadership positions in business and politics, even as majorities say that men and women make equally good leaders.” About 40 percent of Americans “believe higher standards for women and lack of readiness by companies to hire women and by voters to elect women to office” are major reasons.
It should come as no surprise then that women leave the corporate world in disproportionate numbers, many “creating alternative opportunities elsewhere,” Mary Quist-Newins, of The American College and author of a study on women business owners, pointed out in the Newsweek article. “Women start businesses at two times the rate than men do,” she said.
We know you can’t blame the ongoing challenge on a lack of qualified candidates or equally qualified women leaders. We also know that there are a lot of women facing those challenges or who are motivated to take them on.
At AWEE, just saying “you go girl!” isn’t enough. That’s why we launched SheLEADS, a professional development, training and sharing network for high-impact women looking to define and achieve career goals and prepare for the next level of success.
The first class just graduated from the six-month program raring to go. One class member, Franchesca Gonzales, said the program gave her “a push, and the confidence to believe in myself rather than a nice paycheck and a comfort zone. “
So, she left the banking industry “to start my next career journey. And I’m really happy to be here because when I get to wherever that may be, I’ll have found the place that sparks my passion. I don’t know where the path will take me, but I’m already inspired by the journey.”
And we are inspired by her.
Marie A. Sullivan
President & CEO