By Sarah York*
All across the world, countries and businesses are realizing what a large impact women can make when put in decision-making positions. In the US today, only 15% of Fortune 500 board members are women, and that percentage has stalled for a decade. On Monday, June 13th, Demos hosted the panel, co-sponsored by NCRW: A Promising Economic Strategy: More Women in Leadership Positions. Invited experts explored why there are not more women in these roles and laid out strategies to move more women into leadership positions.
Sally D’Amato , a Principal in the US Federal Practice of Deloitte and co-author of “The Gender Dividend: Making the Business Case for Investing in Women ,” said the US was lagging behind other countries. She shared information about quotas and the experiences in countries where they had been introduced. In 2002, Norway enacted a law requiring that 40 percent of all board members of state-owned and public companies be women. In addition, Spain, South Africa, Australia, Germany, and many other nations are making significant changes to facilitate more women taking on leadership roles.
Ursula Wynhoven , General Counsel of the United Nations’ Global Compact explained the Seven Women’s Empowerment Principles . They are a “set of Principles for business that offer guidance on how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace, and community.” The Principles range from ensuring that all policies are gender-sensitive to providing equal opportunities for everyone to advance. To ensure compliance with the Principles, companies can sign on to a CEO Statement of Support . By signing the statement, CEOs commit to abide by the Global Compact’s Principles. So far, 170 CEOs have signed. Wynhoven said the lack of progress, especially in the US, is a serious problem. As a society, US citizens must take action and cannot just sit back and wait for something magical to happen.
Kathleen McQuiggan , the President of Catalina Leadership  and Senior Consultant to Pax World Global Women’s Equality Fund , said businesses that are ignoring the issue and not putting women in leadership roles will fail. They are losing talented professionals who would improve their company‘s performance. Women often bring innovative and fresh perspectives to the table, ones that men often undervalue or overlook.
Linda Tarr-Whelan , Demos Distinguished Senior Fellow and author of “Women Lead the Way: Your Guide to Stepping Up to Leadership ”, wrapped up by saying “the pipeline has a leak.” Many talented women are untapped for leadership roles because so many companies tolerate all-male governing boards at the top of their organizations. Even though there has been improvement in getting more women into leadership roles, there still is a long way to go.
* Sarah York is an NCRW Communications Intern majoring in Marketing at Suffolk University in Boston.