As an editor, one must not only write, but also learn to listen. An editor is often the depository for people's hopes and fantastical aspirations; editors are the keepers of the story. Today's story is about the future of girls.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Kent County's gender demographics are very reflective of the national numbers with a gender population of 49 percent men, and 51 percent women. I cannot help but reflect upon the Think Global, Act Local motto as I continue to dig deeper.
Following the U.S. Census in December 2012 was the Catalyst Census. Its mission is to expand opportunities for women in business.
This census examines Fortune 500 Companies to determine the placement of women in these firms. You might be shocked (or not) to learn that even with a population number greater than equal in our country, women are woefully M.I.A. from top leadership roles in the majority of these firms.
In the 2012 Catalyst Census, women held just 16.6 percent of board seats at Fortune 500 Companies. While this number has begun to nudge at a near glacial pace, in both 2011 and 2012, Catalyst reports that less than one-fifth of these companies had 25 percent or more women directors. It was even worse if you were a woman of color, who held only 3.3 percent of these companies' board seats.
Board diversity continues to be a problem worldwide, but also closer to home. This is an area we can impact for the better versus focusing on distant communities. We can lead by example as a community building our reputation around innovation, as many cities do today.
One gnawing set of questions remains that I know may not have a definitive answer: How did this lack of female visibility happen and why, with all we know about equity building, does the vacancy rate of women in these positions still continue? So, I returned to school where these roots of inequality begin to take hold.
One reason we don't see a lot of women on corporate boards could be due to the fact that if girls do not see women in places of leadership, the subconscious message is not welcome. The film Miss Representation
asserts an oft-referenced study on children where both boys and girls at a very early age, when asked what they want to be when they grow up, reply, “I want to be President of the United States.”
Over time, the boys' answers remain fairly constant while girls' presidential aspirations drop off drastically. Why do we up so slanted and biased in favor of the male gender?
The film suggests the root cause of the girls' abandoning of this dream is quite simply an out of sight, out of mind, so why bother methodology taught to them over time. This is why many believe we are where we are today. When we begin to understand "why" this happens, only then can we begin to engage in "how" this can change, and will if we want it to.
A re-education of our boys and girls needs to begin on all levels. Maybe on Mother's Day, more of us can ask our mothers real earth-moving questions instead of, "Can you pass the potatoes?"
The reasons for beginning this work were made crystal clear in the Catalyst report. It discovered these same Fortune 500 Companies that have placed women as directors on their boards have, on average, excelled, outperforming those other boards that have placed fewer women. Adding women to the boardroom is healthy for a business.
Our wake up call should not just be because women have greater numbers in our region. Around the country, women are seeking higher education degrees. Grand Valley State University, for instance, shows that in the 2012-13 student body, there are 9,981 men and 14,670 female students.
If men wish to be treated fairly in the coming years, they might want to begin to correct the present imbalance.
According to the popular new book Lean In,
by Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg, "A 2012 Pew study found for the first time that among young people ages 18 to 34, more young women (66 percent) than young men (59 percent) rated 'success in a high-paying career or profession' as important to their lives." They are armed with education, are ambitious, and they are ready to join the world that sadly, men have dominated for too long.
If our current business systems do not make room for women who are rising in population and education with data supporting their positive impact to such places of power, then we could see a situation occurring here that is happening in Europe. In Norway, Spain, and France, female representation on boards is being mandated via a quota system that goes hand-in-hand with the European Commission's proposal of a 40 percent goal. (Source: Women On Boards
, Forbes, 1/08/2013)
Any change needs to be authentic (no tokenism), purposeful, and most of all, truly engaging with the education of the generations to follow. They need to see leadership that looks like them if we are to begin to undo the stereotypes and roadblocks set in front of our daughters at such an early age.
The world stats show us that there is work to do and rather than get discouraged by trying to change the world, we can begin locally. This new way of thinking, living, and doing may be just the spark we need to move all of us forward into the future we create.
My hope is that we will begin sooner than later to create an aggressive path to greater female equality in business. According to Ernst and Young's Getting On Board governance database, out of the 5,000 corporate boards seats they surveyed, from 2006 to 2012, we only moved three percentage points from 14 percent to 17 percent.
At this rate, today's girls will have to wait 66 years to see the stats reach an equitable 50 percent mark.
This Mother's Day, let's have the talk we have put off for too long. Let's move from "why: to "how," and then begin to take those critical first steps on Monday.
The Future Needs All of Us
This week G-Sync Events
is a bonus edition including a very special benefit for a couple of musicians in need who have been a large part of helping others.
Editor's Note: This weekend will also screen, It’s a Girl,
a documentary on the issue of "gendercide" that explores the stories of the victims, families, global experts, and grassroots activists. Shot on location in India and China, It's a Girl
asks why this is happening and why so little is being done to save girls and women. Follow this link for details
of where it is showing.