Sunday, March 8, 2015

International Women's Day

There is no question that significant barriers to women's advancement remain intact.  In fact, the head of United Nations Women pointed out that a girl born today will be an 81-year-old grandmother before she has the same chance as a man to become a CEO, and she will have to wait until she is 50 years old to have an equal chance to be the leader of a country.  But, if we rewind this one year, or two years, or pick any year in the past decade, doesn't it feel as if we've had the very same conversations, quoted the same bleak statistics, and share the same frustrations?
   While women clearly still face significant obstacles in achieving the gender equality we all hope for, this should not overshadow the huge strides women are making as leaders, innovators, and money-earners.  In fact, we're breaking new ground in every industry and are closing, although very slowly, the infamous wage gap between males and females every year.
   Today, March 8, is the 107th annual International Women's Day.  Here are a few examples of the notable progress women have made, and how women are changing the face of power, and how we are wielding influence to positively impact all aspects of our world.
    First, in politics.  Female representation in Washington, D. C. is at an all time high, with women making up almost one-fifth of the 114th Congress.  Women lawmakers account for 20 seats in the Senate, and a record 84 seats in the House.  Even though these are seemingly small numbers, 63 percent of Americans believe that our country would be better governed if more women held positions in elected offices.
   Second, in wealth.  In the past three years, the number of women billionaires on the Forbes annual ranking of the World's Billionaires, has grown by 90 percent.  There were 197 women listed in 2015.  Elizabeth Holmes, founder of a blood testing company, has become the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world, at the age of 31.
   Third, in company start-ups. Women are the most dynamic engines of economic growth in the United States.  In one of the latest reports on women-owned businesses, it was stated that over 9 million women own businesses that generate over $1.4 trillion in revenue, and employ 7.8 million people.  Women are starting businesses at a rate of 1,200 per day, with four of every ten new businesses being owned and operated by one.
   Fourth, the bottom line.  Research has continued to show strong links between female representation on corporate boards, and a company's improved financial performance.  A study by Credit Suisse found that companies with at least one female director outperformed all-male boards by an average of 5 percent in the past two years, and that the boards of companies that included women were more likely to pay a higher dividend to shareholders.
   Fifth a connection between organized sports and the top position in a company.  It's been more than 40 years since the passage of Title IX, and the benefits of having girls and women play competitive sports continues to extend far beyond their school endeavors.  A recent study of more than 400 female executives around the world found that the majority of women holding corporate-level positions played sports in college (52 %) and that 96 percent had played an organized sport during their school years.  The top three leadership skills that are attributed to sports are: motivational skills, the ability to see projects through to completions, and team building.
   So, ladies, we still have a long way to go to be standing in equality with men in the real world, but we are slowly making our equality happen.

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