29 Jun Why Women Will Lead the Charge for More Female Leaders
While women are involved in nearly every aspect of a business, their advancement into leadership positions is still moving at a snail’s pace. Perhaps not surprisingly (at least to me as a woman) McKinsey found that “nearly 50 percent of men think women are well represented in leadership in companies where only one in 10 senior leaders are women.” Recently, more companies seem to be putting an emphasis on female empowerment in the workplace and are adopting policies and providing more opportunities for women to get involved and lead.
In 2004, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) created the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEP) as the “first global corporate code of conduct focused exclusively on empowering, advancing and investing in women worldwide.” The WEP provides tools and resources for businesses looking to define a corporate strategy with a particular focus on gender equality.
Taking a look at our industry, public relations is comprised mostly of women (more than 70 percent) yet only 30 percent of global PR firms are run by women. The numbers seem to dwindle above the PR manager title, proving the need for more programs and empowerment for women in leadership roles. These numbers are higher than most other fields because of the dominance of gender in the field, to begin with. AngelList noted in 2015 that only 24 percent of startups were led by women and Fortune found that only two percent of female founders received venture capital in 2017.
The outlook isn’t completely morose though, change is happening and more women are lining up to take charge.
Take for example 28-year-old Democratic Socialist, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who just beat a 10-term male incumbent. She was so far from being considered a serious contender that the New York Times barely covered her. She rose to victory in a grassroots-led campaign and was outraised 10-1. She only began her political career in 2016 when she worked on Bernie Sanders campaign before she launched her own run for office.
The “Time’s Up” movement creators, who also happen to be making a splash in the movie industry by creating their own production companies, producing women-led movies, and being vocal on issues they are passionate about. Reese Witherspoon, Shonda Rhimes, and Eva Longoria are among the most outspoken.
In NonProfit Organizations
Sharon Richardson is not a name many people know. She founded Reentry Rocks and Just-Soul Catering for female-only former inmates. After a domestic violence case landed Richardson in jail for nearly 20 years, she emerged to help and lift up other women who had been incarcerated. She built this on a mission that all women coming home from incarceration will be empowered to create the life they envision and heal from their past.
Adriana Gascoigne is known for Girls in Tech (GIT), a nonprofit she founded in 2007 to create a network to help women advance their careers in STEM-related fields. GIT provides boot camps, hackathons, pitch competitions in front of investors, virtual classrooms and more to give women tangible ways to achieve results.
In the Local DC Community
Locally, female-focused support is becoming more common. DC has organizations like The Vinetta Project, a capital platform and deal flow pipeline that supports high growth female founders in the local ecosystem. PLEN, whose mission is to increase the number of women in leadership roles. Women in Technology (WIT), a professional association for women in technology. The Wing, a social networking and co-working space for women. Similarly, the Hera Hub offers co-working space and support for women at any stage of business. And of course, for our communications family, Washington Women in PR.
There is still work to be done, but if you look around there are many examples of women paving the way for others to rise up. If we all take a little more time to foster and support each other, we can create more opportunities for all of us.