Last week, I had the distinct honor of attending the Professional Businesswomen of California’s annual conference in San Francisco. More than 4,000 business women flocked to hear thought leaders such as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg (and author of Lean In), Lareina Yee of McKinsey, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, NY Times best-selling author Julie Morgenstern and actress Rita Moreno. It was an impressive roster that absolutely delivered a commanding message: when women unite, mountains are moved to achieve results. The problem is that fewer women are “leaning in…”
The goal of the conference is to open doors for women of the next generation to lead. Lareina Yee, partner at the global consulting firm McKinsey & Company, shared the results of a fascinating and somewhat disturbing study on women’s leadership. According to the study conducted for the Wall Street Journal, Ms. Yee found that men are five times more likely to be appointed to leadership than women. The reasons are complex but the data starts early: even though women comprise 59% of college graduates, 53% actually start work. For every board position available, there are 7 qualified female candidates, but less than 17% actually sit on executive boards. And since 2003, the leadership statistics for women have stagnated: 37% rank as middle management, 26% as VP, 14% serve on executive committees and 3-4% as CEO.
What is causing the slowdown of women’s leadership growth? That’s the million dollar question. Again, the answers are complex. Julie Morgenstern is noted as one of the top three most influential productivity experts by Time Magazine and her take on it is very interesting. “Women are seeking full lives – not just full professional experiences but a fulfilling life beyond work as well,” notes Morgenstern. Yee’s study appears to confirm that perspective in that women tend to plateau in a job if the position is fulfilling professionally. Study results noted how women prize the ability to impact the lives of others more so than men. And many women cite not having a clear role model or mentor at work as a primary hurtle in accomplishing higher leadership positions.
So what does this mean for women and the sisters of Spirited Woman? Attending the conference increased my commitment to the next generation of women – to ensure their success, be a role model to inspire others and most importantly, teach women the importance of “paying it forward” to the next generation. Can we count on you to do the same -- identify a woman with leadership potential and mentor her to make a positive impact on the world? Imagine the impact of women around the world, coming together to better the lives of our loved ones and community. That’s the true power of women.