The race to gender equality in the business world is a marathon, not a sprint, according to a recent study from UC Davis. The study looked at the top 400 public companies in California and examined how many of the top leaders in those companies were women. The study found that less than 10% of the top executives were female and one-third of the companies had no women executives. These numbers show a 0.2% increase from last year. At this rate, it could take 100 years to reach equality—Vision 2020’s finish line.
When preparing for a marathon, one needs to train carefully, slowly building up the distance in each training session, ensuring good nutrition, and learning from experts and other runners. For the past 100 years, women have been preparing for company leadership positions, graduating from college in increasing numbers, learning from executives, and becoming a significant portion of the workforce. They are prepared for the race. However, women are attaining upper-level positions at an incredibly slow rate, the proverbial plateau in marathon training.
How can women move past this plateau?
In marathon training, you could find a training partner. In the business world, it isn’t much different. Watermark, a community of women leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area, has started the Watermark Institute Board Access program, whose goal is to increase the number of women in board positions. The program assesses the initial status of the participants, coaches the participants, holds board simulations, and helps them to make contacts. All of these things combined make the perfect training partner. In fact, 25% of the women in last year’s class have obtained board seats.
Like Watermark, Vision 2020 has its eye on increasing the number of women on boards. One of Vision 2020’s National Goals is to increase the number of women in senior leadership positions and women across the country are developing State Initiatives to achieve this goal.
The number of training partners is increasing, the educational foundation is intact, and women have been preparing for these positions for many years. Together, women may be able to finish our marathon in less than 100 years.