Leadership

Lexi Jackson Proves the Future Is Female!

Lexi Jackson Lexi Jackson, a sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis, already knows that the only way to affect change is to engage – and wow – has she engaged! She was recently chosen to participate in a Washington University student panel providing commentary of the State of the Union Address on ABC News. She was poised, articulate, and on message throughout Before the President’s Address began, she shared her concerns on how the tax bill undermines the Affordable Care Act. She hoped President Trump would address the issue and follow up with a plan to navigate the elimination of the tax penalty and how to keep health care premiums down, mitigating costs for families who are impacted.
As if that weren’t impressive enough for the young business strategy/political science student, ABC News followed up the next day saying that the executive producers were impressed and invited Lexi to write a SOTU response column for their website the day after the address. “I considered it a blessing from God, to have the opportunity to share my remarks on a national forum and transparently discuss my family’s story,” she said.
Her commitment to keeping health care costs affordable isn’t just an issue for Lexi, it’s personal. As she wrote, “Five years ago, I awoke to the news that my father had been in a severe car accident. He had experienced significant physical injuries and nerve damage. Ultimately, the accident would render him disabled, eligible for disability payments and Medicare coverage. My family’s journey since that day has been filled with more unpredictability and change than we could have ever imagined. Life sped up significantly and we began to understand the importance of immediacy and efficiency — both in the context of my father’s care and in the government processes in which we were now compulsory participants. Ultimately, we realized that there are some things for which you have absolutely no time to wait.”
Her recognition that time is of the essence goes far beyond her father’s story, and Lexi sees a number of issues in the world today that also need to be addressed NOW. That’s in part why she stays so busy. On campus, Lexi is the Director of the Olin School of Business’ first Diversity and Inclusion Summit, the Incoming Director of the student-run strategy firm Bear Studios, and an orientation leader. She’s passionate about the intersectionality of business and politics and the social impact that can be generated from strengthening principal-agent relationships whether they occur between legislators and constituents or companies and customers.Lexi with co-sophomores
The Diversity and Inclusion Summit, which happened on February 9, was quite an impressive undertaking, especially as it was the University’s first. She, along with two other sophomores, realized that the issues of diversity and inclusion hadn’t been thoroughly addressed in a summit setting, and they set their sights on creating an incredible event. With a keynote panel including Arvetta Powell, Director of Diversity and Associate Experience from Build-A-Bear Workshop; Emily Pitts, Principal of Inclusion and Diversity, Edward Jones; Susan Stith, Vice President of Express Scripts; Adita Akbani, Senior Principal Scientist, Pfizer; and Kim Hawkins, Multicultural Talent Acquisition Recruiter, US Bank, attendees were able to learn a lot about issues in the workplace from the best and brightest in the industry.
The keynote panel was followed by break-out sessions, and “Navigating Microagressions in the Workplace” was led by Keisha Mabry, Adjunct Lecturer at Washington University and “Friendworking” Expert. The “Women in Tech” session was led by Kelly Lee, Business Program Manager on the Infastructure Team at Facebook, and Kirsten Miller, Compliance Manager with Uber.
Women in Tech“These issues really spoke to me, and to the two other students I planned the summit with,” Lexi said. “To me this isn’t political, this is a business and a human issue. I’m so glad we tackled this and had these discussions at Wash U.”
Lexi brings a fresh perspective to her work and her studies at Washington University, and stays involved to include that perspective in the overall narrative. “If you are passive about an issue or disaffected by your current situation, then you will never be able to change things. If you are holding out and waiting to get involved until you feel 100% equipped to do so, you will never be able to make an impact.”
“I’m engaged and keep myself busy. I think I’ve always seen each stage of my life as an opportunity to be involved,” Lexi said. “I feel that you should always take the resources available and see what you can do to assist others and actively make the decision to affect change and get involved.”
Lexi has always been surrounded by strong women, and they have admittedly served as an inspiration to her. Her grandmother, Dianne Elizabeth Osis, founded “Springfield Business Journal” at a time when the field was considered a boy’s club and women weren’t necessarily welcomed. Her mother, Jennifer Jackson, followed in her mother’s footsteps, and has not only continued the work her mother started, but successfully navigated the publication through a changing media landscape and grew the company in the digital realm. Since taking over, she also started a communications company.
“I didn’t realize how much my grandmother had done until her retirement party. She accomplished so much while raising her children as a single mother. Her story is so empowering and made me realize that I can be successful in business and politics,” Lexi said. “And then there’s my mom, who took SBJ in a different direction, integrated a digital platform, and started a new company while dealing with the financial and emotional strain from my dad’s car accident. I’ve never been more amazed by someone handling all of that than I am by my mom.”
With the groundswell of women of every generation speaking, and working together to bring about change, Lexi has great hope for her generation, and the mark they will leave. “I think my generation will elect the first woman president, and that is not an inherent women’s issue, but it is a symbolic gesture that will solve some of the disparities we see today.”
“I also think we are going to see a massive shift in corporate culture,” Lexi added. “Family leave will be normalized, because we’re seeing innovators in that space – in all sectors – and these innovators are developing maternity and paternity leave. I think that will lead to more gender equality in the workplace, and that people will realize that women can be mothers and have successful careers.”
As Lexi wrote on Facebook, she responded to the State of the Union Address in hopes that one day she’ll give a State of the Union address of her own. Today, looking at the unique pressures that her generation faces, Lexi feels it is more important than ever to engage. “I think that it’s important to make a difference no matter who or where you are. If there weren’t challenges, there wouldn’t be the incentive to speak out.  I have a voice, and I plan to use it.”
We look forward to listening. Watching Lexi take her first steps as a strong woman to impact change is inspiring. Women who make a difference are driven by passion and Lexi is already demonstrating that she has what it takes to change history and maybe even one day, deliver her own State of the Union Address.

Uniting Humanity through Music

Marina Arsenijevic

Marina

Marina Arsenijevic praises the United States for allowing her — a foreigner — to perform with two iconic West Point musical groups, spreading her universal message of unity and building bridges for the common good of humanity. Marina says that no other country in the world would have allowed her to do that. She performed her Emmy-nominated PBS program “Marina at West Point–Unity through Diversity,” with the West Point Cadet Band and Glee Club.
She has since become a US citizen and continues to give voice to stories that drive her passion through her music. An internationally famous classical pianist and composer, Marina speaks from her heart through the universal language of music to remind us that no matter our differences, “we are all one under the sun.” Born in Belgrade, Serbia, in the former Yugoslavia, Marina became passionate about piano as a child and had earned her master’s degree in music by the time the bitter civil war split her country apart. At the peak of the conflict, she sought to unify the separate peoples of Yugoslavia by combining Muslim and Christian rhythms and melodies that honored both cultures and all people. In the end, she had to flee Yugoslavia and was permitted by a special congressional bipartisan arrangement to enter the United States where she continues to unify people through her many concerts and compositions.

Mileva Einstein—A Modern Tragic Madame Butterfly

Mileva_Einstein BookMarina’s current passion is creating a musical play based on the book, Mileva Marić Einstein: Life with Albert Einstein by Radmila Milentijević. She first read the book in her native Serbian and helped get it published in English. Now, she is working on composing and producing a modern musical story, similar to the tragic story of Madame Butterfly using the connection to music the Einsteins shared. Albert, a good amateur violinist and Mileva, who played piano and tambourine, enjoyed performing together for guests in their home.
The most notable thing about Mileva, however, was her contribution to Einstein’s work, for which she received no public recognition. A mathematical genius, she converted Einstein’s physics into mathematical equations. Their partnership is demonstrated in Einstein’s letters to Mileva, in which he refers to all the major papers of the time as “our work” or “our paper.” However, the only credit she received was a share of the Nobel Peace Prize money.  Although Einstein resisted, the divorce decree awarded future Nobel Prize money to Mileva as her property. Marina tells Dr. Nancy how her countrywoman sacrificed her own career, a classic female choice, to avoid diminishing the history-making work in the eyes of the world. Marina also notes that Einstein produced nothing significant after the divorce from Mileva, his unrecognized scientific partner.
Listen to this interview for more of Marina’s personal journey from rising star as a classical pianist to escape from war-torn Yugoslavia, and intriguing details about Mileva’s contribution to Einstein’s work including the theory of relativity. Check out more of Marina’s current work at MarinainAmerica.com and on Instagram. Stay tuned for Marina’s musical and possible screen play, and tune into further broadcasts of Marina’s PBS program, “Unity through Diversity.”

50 Women CAN Change the World

Founder See Jane Do

Elisa Parker

Media maven Elisa Parker travels the world to connect people through their stories. Founder and host of the radio show, See Jane Do, she is a dedicated activist for women, social justice and the environment, which is why she became a Take the Lead Ambassador almost two years ago and co-launched the initiative, 50 Women Can Change the World in Media and Entertainment with fellow Ambassador Tabby Biddle.  Elisa says that 50 Women Can is a game changer, as media creates how women and girls see themselves in our culture. To write a new history for women’s leadership, the storytellers have to be women, telling stories to empower women and show them how they can use their intrinsic power.

Feminine Power

Elisa’s own story about redefining power came when she left her high-paying job and had to become reliant on her husband’s income. She suddenly had to re-evaluate her value and self-worth. As a result, when she created See Jane Do, she sought to share stories to help women identify their own self-worth without regard to position and income and base their leadership potential on more intrinsic qualities. Now, she says we’re at a paradigm shift and are redefining the essence of power: power can be love, relationships and shared resources. Women increase their power when they come together and support one another to work toward the same goal. It’s about power with and power to, not about power over.
That is the momentum behind 50 Women Can Change the World in Media and Entertainment. As a Take the Lead Initiative, 50 Women follows a format where 50 women are nominated to be THE women in their field that can change the world to help achieve gender parity by 2025 (the mission of Take the Lead). Dr. Nancy put the support of WomenConnect4Good, Inc. behind the Media and Entertainment initiative to help transform the way women and girls see themselves. Until the stories about women are told by women, we remain stuck in the patriarchal system that holds women back.

The Progress of 50 Women Can

Elisa is very excited about the progress and the way this initiative works. The 50 women are just now being notified if they were selected, and Elisa credits the advisory committee with helping to produce an incredible cross section of women. Specifically, they wanted to choose from those women who have the most influence in shaping the story, which includes being able to develop, support and fund the content. In other words, they wanted to bring together women who are really making the decisions for female-led and female-centered content. Representatives ranged from executives representing most of the major networks, to women who have their own production studios, who are producers, directors, writers, cinematographers, and so on. The group is diverse, and ranges throughout ages, abilities and races. In the end, there were at least 40% women of color, as opposed to the 12% that represents the industry at large.
The selection process is only the beginning. The goal is for these 50 women to put their expertise in one place and use it to change the dynamics of the stories that show women what they can be. In this interview, Dr. Nancy talked about “Hidden Figures” and what it meant to budding girl-scientists. In fact, there were many women’s voices speaking out this year in the kind of unison that gets things done.

Perfect Timing

With the #Metoo movement, Elisa said that she feels like they are embracing the controversy at this very moment. However, she also stressed that they need their “man fans,” and count among their partners male advocates that are helping as well. As they move forward into their next phase, they will fine tune the program. The 50 women will most likely break out in smaller groups to co-create something together. What they will do will ultimately be determined by them.
Stay tuned for announcement of the winners and more about the progress. Listen to this interview for more inside stories about how Elisa and Gloria met, and how Tabby Biddle and Elisa came to launch 50 Women. Check out the interviews and other posts on See Jane Do,  and more. These are exciting times, and Elisa and Dr. Nancy both urge you to participate. Women can do anything together.
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Who You ARE Makes a Difference

Founder of Blue Ribbons Worldwide

Helise “Sparky” Bridges

Helice “Sparky” Bridges had it all – a big house on the Pacific Ocean, fancy cars, beautiful sons and an emotionally abusive husband – when she hit the wall. She fell to her knees and cried, “Stop the world I want to get off!” and a voice answered,” You can’t end your life because you are going to sing and dance and write.”Later on she also understood that she must also make a difference in the world. The fact that she couldn’t sing, had never danced a step or written much beyond a real estate contract didn’t stop her. She left home with a potted plant and some clothes and did those very things in spite of apparent shortcomings because of what she IS–outrageous.
Sparky realized that everyone just tries to be the best mom or dad or teacher, but what everyone really needs is to be recognized and loved, just like she did.  She created a symbolic hug in the Blue Ribbon ceremony in 1980, now called “Blue Ribbons Worldwide” with a goal of uniting humanity through the power of love and within three months 35,000 people were honored with it. Sparky’s goal is to reach one billion people by 2020. That’s one in seven people in the world, the mathematical tipping point for social change.

“Bing!” is the sound of making dreams come true.

With over 40 million people and counting, Blue Ribbons Worldwide is working hard on its goal to unite the world through the power of love. Sparky calls it the glue that’s missing from our lives. The blue ribbon she created says, “Who I Am Makes a Difference” and the ceremony requires seven steps, beginning with looking the person in the eye and honoring them for the qualities that make them special, asking permission to place the ribbon over their heart and for them to receive the honor, and finally “Bing!” to signify making their dreams come true. Each blue ribbon presented is followed by two more with a request for that person to pay it forward to two others.
Blue Ribbons
Sparky tells her own story and the inspiring stories of how the Blue Ribbon Ceremony made a difference in people’s lives in her book, Who I am Makes a Difference: The Power of Acknowledgement, Stories that Connect People Heart-to-Heart and Ignite the Human Spirit. One story on how the blue ribbon prevented a teen suicide is also featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul. That is at the heart of Blue Ribbons Worldwide, to end teen suicide, heal the world by helping one person at a time understand how much she/he matters. Today more than 40 million people have been honored with blue ribbons, but 2020 is only a couple of years away.

#BLUERIBBONCHALLENGE

Sparky says that people need to have personal connections and not be in such a “doing” world, but in a “being” world, where we can see each other’s hearts and the beauty in people. She is inviting others  to join her in becoming sponsors of a new initiative to train 40,000 middle and high school students to discover who they are, why they were born and the difference they make. The students will be honoring each other, honoring their parents and writing stories about it to unite the community in supporting everyone else’s dreams. Besides reducing teen suicides, bullying and the other epidemics that are infecting our teens, Sparky says that it will elevate education in America by developing social and emotional literacy. Instead of concentrating our efforts on conflict resolution, the Blue Ribbon Ceremony will focus on elevating our relationships to a higher bond of respect and love. To learn more about Blue Ribbons Worldwide, contact Sparky directly at her e-mail: sparky@blueribbons.org.
Listen to this conversation for more inspiring stories and to hear the 7-step Blue Ribbon Acknowledgement Ceremony from Sparky to Dr. Nancy. Check out Sparky’s website and ways Blue Ribbons Worldwide is uniting the world through sharing love with 40 million people and counting.Find out how you can help make it One Billion by 2020 at Blue Ribbons Worldwide.

Is Your Story Holding You Back

Six Ways to Rewrite It and Supercharge Your Power

Often women allow circumstances, routines, and stereotypes to keep them from living their dreams. Here, a licensed psychologist offers insight into how you can rewrite your story, reconnect with your power, and create a fulfilling and purposeful life.

By Nancy D. O’Reilly, PsyD
Woman With Laptop
The stories we tell ourselves determine how we think we must behave. Change your story and you can transform your life in dramatic ways. Bridget Cook-Burch, one of my coauthors of Leading Women, says we may not even be conscious of the obstacles we create with our stories or of the limitless possibilities that exist when we rewrite them. When Bridget was a single mom, she worked from home and thought it was the only way she could support her children and be available to care for them when they needed her. Soon she found herself in an abusive relationship with a client. His advances became so intrusive she had to hide images and messages he sent from her children.
Like many women, Bridget feared that if she quit she would lose both income and the ability to provide a safe, emotionally secure place for her children. Still, she summoned her courage and fired her client. Without knowing how she would pay the rent or even feed her kids, she rejected the “victim story” she had believed to be true and embraced the realization that she had thousands of possibilities. In fact, in a few weeks she joined a friend in ownership of a large trucking company, where she began to train and manage many men and women.
What stories are you telling yourself? I hope you aren’t having to fend off an abusive client, but you may be limiting yourself in other ways. Are you accepting the stereotypes of our culture? Are you pursuing the path someone else wants you to take? Are you living by default? Or are you pursuing your passion with a firm belief that it is your time to do whatever you choose?
It’s time to take responsibility for your own “story,” your own life. You can stop seeing obstacles and start envisioning opportunities to claim and use your power to achieve your passion and purpose.
Of course, if you’re like most of us, you probably devote most of your time and energy to everyone around you. If that’s true, you may not even know what you care about most deeply. The only way to figure out what your passion is––and to learn how to direct it––is to purposefully rewrite your story and turn your power up a notch. Here are a few ways to get started:
Step out of your comfort zone. Get uncomfortable and make a difference. Every time someone says, “You can’t,” show them you can. Although it may feel painful for a moment, following your passion is a path filled with joy. Why wait? Choose to step out and do something you’re passionate about and you will discover your most gratifying and powerful life.
Start working out. When you feel physically fit and healthy, you naturally arm yourself to take on that next ambitious challenge. Exercise relieves stress, helps you relax, and produces the “happy hormones” that keep you strong and resilient. If you choose to do only one thing for yourself each day, give yourself a loving workout. The less you do, the less you can do. And you want your mind, body, and spirit to be more engaged and energized to claim your power.
Move to Connecting 2.0. Real connecting is not just about attending surface-level meet-and-greets and collecting hundreds of Facebook friends. It requires you to stop wondering, What can I get from you? and start thinking, What can we accomplish together? My most satisfying accomplishments were done with the help of my sisters. Women are hardwired to support and collaborate, and we are much more creative and successful together than any one of us is alone.
Ask your friends where to channel your power. Many women have been doing what others wanted for so long, they simply don’t know what their strengths and skills are. Ask your women friends for advice. In many ways, they know you better than you know yourself. They notice what makes you smile and what you inherently do well. Ask them for guidance in finding a path that fits your talents and inclination.
Stay present for instant power. When you worry about the future and fret about the past, you waste your energy. It’s ironic that so many of us struggle to stay present because it really is the simplest, most natural thing in the world. It happens through the senses—all we need to do is tune in to what we’re seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting right now. Allow yourself to feel grateful for it. Gratitude awakens us, and when we’re awake, we can see our opportunities and rise to our challenges instead of obsessing about our barriers and failures.
This year, do one thing to change the world. When you are able to observe a positive difference in the world because of something you did, you’ll tap into a powerful well of motivation. You don’t have to solve world hunger or found an orphanage. Start small. Volunteer for something you care about or chip in with others to fix something in your community.
A few years ago, I had the privilege of meeting the Dalai Lama. He impressed me when he said that the future of the world rests in the hands of Western women, if only we would wake up. I believe this and know that changing your corner of the world for the better requires paying attention to the reality around you. It’s an amazing way to access your power.
Once you stop living on automatic pilot and take those first few halting steps forward, it gets steadily easier to connect to your purpose. You’ll begin to notice other women and men around you who are moving in a similar direction. You’ll feel the joy and satisfaction of doing something deeply meaningful. And you’ll want to do more. Together, we can change the world.

Ways to Enhance Your Leadership by Making Your Voice Heard

Women LeadershipTo really change the status quo, women need to make their voices heard. Across the country, women are tackling that goal on a large scale (say by running for office), or by voicing their opinions in the workplace and in community organizations. Whatever the venue, speaking out is key, especially if you want to advance. Interestingly, a new study has found it isn’t just what you say that helps you get ahead, but how you say it.
Research has found that speaking up with information intended to help your group has a ton of benefits. It can improve performance, help come up with creative solutions, and address (and even avoid) issues that might hold your group back. And by speaking up, research suggests that not only will you help your group get ahead, it can help you emerge as a leader.
In efforts to better understand the power of using your voice, researchers Elizabeth McClean, Kyle Emich, Sean R. Martin, and Todd Woodruff found themselves wondering which matters more: who speaks up, or how they do it? In a search for those answers, the group recently undertook two separate studies, and their results were eye-opening.
Sean R. Martin writes in Harvard Business Review that they found those who speak up can gain the respect and esteem of their peers, and this increase in status made people more likely to emerge as leaders of their groups. However, these effects happened only for some people and only when they spoke up in certain ways.
“Specifically, speaking up with promotive voice (providing ideas for improving the group) was significantly related to gaining status among one’s peers and emerging as a leader. However, speaking up with prohibitive voice (pointing out problems or issues that may be harming the team and should be stopped) was not,” Martin writes. “We further found that the gender of the person speaking up was an important consideration: The status bump and leader emergence that resulted from speaking up with ideas only happened for men, not for women.”
Their findings echo research that shows that people respond differently when men and women engage in similar behaviors, which suggests that women who speak up and share ideas may not see the same benefits as men. Proving yet again that there is a definite strategy behind effectively making your voice heard.
“This research is not intended to suggest that people — men or women — should speak up only with [promotive] ideas and avoid bringing up problems,” Martin writes. “After all, for teams to function, innovate, and learn, it is critically important to … to spot the things that be might holding a team back from even better outcomes.”
This research highlights the need for us to understand the different ways men and women speak. Men are very direct, use and expect one-word responses, women want the story behind the answer. Relationship building and collaboration lie behind women’s communication, while men communicate to get the job done.
My Leading Women co-author Gloria Feldt cites the work of Simon Sinek, who points out the benefit of explaining why before making a suggestion. For example, by first stating, “I have an idea for improving our overall productivity as a group,” before making their proposal, both women and men found their audiences responded better to their ideas.

My co-author Claire Damken Brown, Ph.D. is a gender communication expert and urges women to make their voices heard to build their credibility as leaders. If they do it correctly, the results can be beneficial, but it can be difficult to the get credit.  Our ideas are our intellectual capital, and in Leading Women, she relates how she felt when someone “stole” her idea in a meeting. She actually thought this just happened in textbooks, so she was stunned when it happened to her. To address the issue, she recommends that you:

  • Bring attention back to yourself
  • Buddy up with someone in advance and have them bring the attention back to you
  • Seek help from the meeting facilitator.

Whether in the workplace or in the community, it’s up to all of us to recognize what makes us effective communicators, learn from our differences, and create a supportive, collaborative environment where women and men have equal floor time. As women, we can’t unlock our full potential in the workplace, in the community, or in our homes until we gain recognition for our ideas and build a world where equality isn’t the exception, but the rule.

Reward and Indulge Yourself at an Elite Retreat

By Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly
Group of women developing trust in a retreatFor three days and two nights, I was recently privileged to be part of a hand-picked group of women at the Fairmont Princess Resort in Fairmont, Arizona. Holly Dowling, who had recently been my podcast guest on “Conversations with Smart Amazing Women,” is an award-winning keynote speaker and women’s advocate. This was her second such event, where she chose participants who are successful, well-positioned women who are still struggling to fit in time for themselves. I truly felt that the theme for the weekend was “Indulge Yourself.” But it was more than that. Holly put eight women together and gave us a safe, sacred place where we could develop trusting relationships and bonds that would extend well beyond our time at the retreat.
Although Holly had designed all-inclusive mind, body, and soul experiences with conversations and thought-provoking activities for self-reflection and growth, the remarkable thing about the experience was watching trust develop among us. Women need that trusted space. We actually opened up and became close very quickly, yet we discussed trust over and over again. And it took three days for many of us to feel comfortable enough to share our most personal truths.
Women on retreat dinner founded a trusted space opened up and became close quicklyIt still amazes me that professional, successful, well-positioned women so often  don’t recognize their own self-worth. I admire their fearless compassionate adventuresome natures. Yet, when they describe their accomplishments, they do so in an offhand way, dismissing as nothing the achievements most others only dream of accomplishing. Like many other women, these powerhouses often put themselves last and don’t take time to reward themselves or care for their own well-being.
Sunset behind a cactus from Elite RetreatI hope you can recognize and acknowledge your worth and encourage you to indulge yourself. Take the opportunity to participate in a retreat of your own, even if it’s only an afternoon in a peaceful place, taking time to read that book you’ve been wanting to read, getting a massage, or slipping away for a weekend (without your phone). You are uniquely wonderful. Each of us is special, so toot your own horn and celebrate the successes in your life.
By all means, if you have an opportunity to gather with like-minded women in an event such as the Elite Retreat, please take that opportunity. I’m still talking about it more than a month later with the awe that comes from having experienced something precious with my sisters that I will cherish for many years. In fact, the most important part of the retreat for me is remembering who each woman is for herself and the connection we created in just a few days.
To find out about the next Elite Retreat hosted by Holly Dowling, click HollyDowling/Elite-Retreat.

One Way to Achieve Gender Diversity in The Workplace

Women in the WorkforceIt’s no surprise that Women in the Workplace 2017, a report from McKinsey and LeanIn.org., found that women remain underrepresented at every level in corporate America, despite earning more college degrees than men for 30 years and counting. There is definitely a need to do more, and most organizations realize this, which accounts for the fact that company commitment to gender diversity is at an all-time high for the third year in a row.
Women in the Workplace researchers write that, “One of the most powerful reasons for the lack of progress is a simple one: we have blind spots when it comes to diversity, and we can’t solve problems that we don’t understand clearly. Many employees think women are well represented in leadership when they see only a few. And because they’ve become comfortable with the status quo, they don’t feel any urgency for change. Further, many men don’t fully grasp the barriers that hold women back at work. As a result, they are less committed to gender diversity, and we can’t get there without them.”
While the workforce may be waking up to the fact that talented women can contribute at least as much as men in the organization, progress is still slow. In fact, Women in Workplace researchers even speculate that progress has stalled.
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and author of Lean In, wrote in The Wall Street Journal that despite companies’ growing commitment to gender diversity, “It’s hard to solve a problem we don’t fully see or understand—and when it comes to gender in the workplace, too often we miss the scope and scale of the issue.”
Sandberg concludes that businesses can’t “afford to leave talent on the sidelines,” but that we “won’t unlock the full potential of the workplace until we see how far from equality we really are.”
Rather than focusing on who, and who isn’t, in the C-suite, Women in the Workplace researchers first examined the corporate pipeline, starting from entry-level professional positions. Their findings show that fewer women than men are hired at the entry level, despite women representing 57 percent of recent college graduates. Researchers also found that inequality starts with the very first round of promotions. In fact, the biggest gender gap occurs at the first step up to manager. From the very beginning of their careers, entry-level women are 18 percent less likely to be promoted than their male peers. This entry-level gender disparity has a dramatic effect on the pipeline as a whole. If entry-level women were promoted at the same rate as their male peers, the number of women at the senior vice president and C-suite levels would more than double
This is where we can start to raise awareness and focus our energies. Why are women underrepresented? Look at a company’s hiring practices and first round of promotions. To make advancement available to more women we actually need to get more women in the pipeline, and not just seeking the jobs, but looking for advancement opportunities from the very beginning. We need to make the workplace welcoming for both genders in order to make this happen. As Kelly Stickel, CEO & Founder of Remondista writes at GirlTalk HQ, “The companies that identify the value of the female workforce will win. The ones that cultivate an environment that is inclusive of the female leader, will win bigger. Why is it important to make everyone feel welcome? When people feel welcome they perform better, more ideas come to the surface, leaving you with more options for solutions.”
We need to do more than simply nod at inclusivity and representation; we need to actually change hiring practices and look closely at the workplace culture. The ability to collaborate and welcome every individual, male and female, is crucial for success in the global economy. We need women from all walks of life to apply for the jobs, put in for the promotions, and take the lead to engage this untapped resource of feminine leadership.

We Need More Women in Leadership

Women LeadershipThe world needs more women in leadership. The problems we face today – from our local communities to the workplace, and the global stage – require diverse leaders who have a variety of skill sets. Women bring the additional skills needed, as well as a different perspective to drive effective solutions. In short, female leaders change the game, and in many cases, change the way the world does business.
Perhaps one of the best snapshots of where we are, and how far we have to go, is the Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey and LeanIn.org. This year’s report, which was just released, has results from 222 companies that completed a survey of human resource practices and shared pipeline data for their total combined workforce of more than 12 million people. More than 70,000 employees also completed a survey about their experiences regarding gender, opportunity, career, and work-life issues.
The report’s findings illustrate the well-known obstacles to womens’ leadership that have been identified in previous reports – slow career advancement, fewer raises and promotions, and more obstacles for women of color. In spite of the fact that women make up 50% of the workforce, have higher education levels than men, are often the primary breadwinners in their families. Also study after study demonstrates that having more women in the workplace can lead to significantly higher productivity and efficiency. So what is the hold up?
First of all, for many it is a matter of perspective, and requires shedding light on the facts to shift perception. According to Women in the Workplace, “When it comes to how women and men see the state of women and gender diversity efforts, there are striking differences. Men are more likely to think the workplace is equitable; women see a workplace that is less fair and offers less support. Men think their companies are doing a pretty good job supporting diversity; women see more room for improvement. Given the persistent lag in women’s advancement, women have the more accurate view.”
We also need to raise the bar. Women in the Workplace finds that, “Nearly 50 percent of men think women are well represented in leadership in companies where only one in ten senior leaders is a woman. A much smaller but still significant number of women agree: a third think women are well represented when they see one in ten in leadership.”
We also need to give women the support they need, not only in their day-to-day work, but on the road to advancement. Women in the Workplace finds that women are less likely to receive advice from managers and senior leaders on how to advance, and employees who do are more likely to say they’ve been promoted in the last two years. Similarly, women are less likely to interact regularly with senior leaders, yet employees who do so are more likely to aspire to be top executives.
We can’t unlock the full potential of women in the workplace, in the community, or in our homes until we see how far from equality we really are. That means it is up to all of us to raise awareness of the true status of women in leadership, and celebrate each woman’s accomplishments. By recognizing that we do indeed need more women in leadership, and working together to help women gain confidence and the skills they need to overcome barriers and reach their goals, we truly can change the world into one of 50/50 parity, where both genders value each contribution and shed the concept of living in a male-dominated culture.

Women Leadership Interest Survey

Do You Want To Become a More Effective Leader?

We are partnering with many organizations to obtain leadership training opportunities for women. We’d like to partner with yours, too!

Women Connect 4 GoodTake the Women’s Leadership Interest Survey
Membership organizations have long been a training ground for women leaders. By offering leadership training through your organization, we believe your board will:

  • Provide value that appeals to younger members, who are building their careers
  • Develop new leaders to support the goals of your organization
  • Prepare a new generation of leaders to help advance equality in community, government and business

By completing the Leadership Interest Survey, women can ask for what they want — the first step towards becoming more effective leaders.

Why Women’s Leadership Training Matters

From where we sit, our families, communities and especially our women are still getting the short end of the stick. No one is going to fix this for us, so it’s up to women to step up and make changes. Studies have shown that having more women in leadership roles makes businesses much more profitable, and employees are happier and easier to recruit and retain. Yet although the doors to the C-Suite are open, too few women are walking through to take their fair and equal share of top positions.
Let’s change that! Research shows and we know from experience that women hang back because they don’t like the old oppressive model of “power over” so we need to help them embrace the expansive, inclusive “power to” that enables us to work together for positive change. Women can and will band together to support each other in advancement, to encourage each other to ask for raises and promotions, and to fight for fairness if their requests are denied.

About the Leadership Interest Survey Project

Take the Women’s Leadership Interest Survey
Most women do not have the benefit of a corporate professional development budget, yet our communities, businesses and nations need all women to step forward as leaders. That’s why we need women to ask for what they want: leadership training available through their membership organizations.
When women raise their voices strongly to ask for this training opportunity, we will seek national grants to make such training available to large numbers of women. With more than 20 Take The Lead Leadership Ambassadors ready to conduct training sessions across the country, we can make a big change in a hurry. Complete your 5-minute survey now and ask for the training that will help you become a more effective leader.

Information for Board Members

Top Leadership
 
Do you think your group might be interested in participating in our survey? If so, email Maggie from our contact page. She will send you a flyer like this with information for your Board of Directors.

 
 

About Our Partnership

Dr. Nancy O’Reilly supports Gloria FeldtDr. Nancy O’Reilly and Women Connect4Good have long been major supporters of  Gloria Feldt and Take The Lead because we share their mission of advancing women to leadership parity by 2025.  Gloria has done several podcast interviews with Dr. Nancy and authored the first essay in our book Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business and Life. We supported Take The Lead’s international livestream roll-out event in 2013, underwrote training for Leadership Ambassadors, supported 9 Leadership Power Tools training for groups, and have provided major funding for operations. In addition, we have provided seed money for a 50 Women Can Change the World program [in development] in Los Angeles for women in media and entertainment.
Take The Lead, Inc. is an awesome organization and we urge you to connect with them for information, training and inspiration. Learn more about Take The Lead.

Women Connect 4 GoodWomen Connect4Good, Inc. is a 501(c)3 dedicated to empowering women-helping-women networks. Take the LeadTake The Lead is a 501(c)3 whose mission is to prepare, develop, inspire and propel women to leadership parity across all sectors by 2025.
 
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