This blog entry comes from Vision 2020 Kansas Delegate Rania Anderson who took part in The Wall Street Journal’s Women in the Economy Task Force earlier this year. Learn more about her State Initiative: http://thewaywomenwork.com/ https://twitter.com/#!/thewaywomenwork
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We are NOT advancing the role and position of women in our economy: not fast enough, not significantly enough, not like our country needs. Historically, we have seen forward motion, but in the past 50 years, the pace has been decidedly snail-like, with only incremental change.
I participated in the Wall Street Journal’s inaugural Women in the Economy Task Force in April, an invitation-only event bringing together 150 iconic female leaders and experts on women. It was my great hope we would come up with groundbreaking recommendations.
At the Task Force, we reviewed a new study released by McKinsey. We worked in industry and career-stage sessions to address key issues affecting women’s growth, participation, and position in the U.S. economy. The participants, critical thinking, inputs and facilitation, devoted to the session were remarkable. Yet today (as you well know), it is much harder to see and address resistance to increased power for women leaders.
In the McKinsey study, Joanna Barsh, a Director at McKinsey, wrote, “Managers—male and female—continue to take viable female candidates out of the running, often on the assumption the women can’t handle certain jobs and also discharge family obligations.” We also know women often take themselves out of the running by failing to believe in themselves or take appropriate actions to advance their careers.
For an insider’s look at some of the Task Force deliberations, three of the McKinsey findings that generated considerable discussion were:
- Women are often evaluated for promotions primarily on performance, while men are often promoted on potential.
- Contrary to widely held beliefs, women increase their interest and desire for leadership as they progress from entry-level to middle management (at the exact time when many are NOT promoted).
- Women do not opt out of the workforce; most cannot afford to do so. Women actually leave specific jobs for other jobs in pursuit of personal achievement, more money, and recognition—just like men.
Key recommendations developed and voted upon by Task Force participants included:
- Women need to take and be encouraged to take positions of P&L leadership (revenue and core business roles).
- Companies need to better identify female talent so women can be considered for promotions based on their potential.
- Recognizing the importance of mentorship and sponsorship programs, the role of media, executive accountability, talent management, and early-age training.
These, along with the rest of the research, discussion, and recommendations were right on target. But, there is not much here we have not already heard or have tried to do. The questions remain: How best to convince decision makers? What change, breakthrough, catalytic event, or seismic shift do we need so our nation fully taps the talent and leadership of high-skilled women?
Perhaps we require the female equivalent of Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela, or the awakening equivalent of the Arab Spring regarding women’s leadership in the United States. In economic terms, it’s called a market correction. What will it take? Our future depends on the answers.