KC Wednesday: Why Women?
Our next KC Wednesday post comes from Dr. Marianne Huger, Assistant Dean of Students at American University and an adjunct professor in The Graduate School of Education and Human Development at The George Washington University. She is the Region II Representative for the Women in Student Affairs Knowledge Community and the chair-elect for the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders.
This evening is the opening night for the National Conference of College Women Student Leaders. I cannot wait. 550 women from college campuses around the country will come together for three packed days of knowledge sharing, professional development, and mentorship. As I was putting together a workshop for the conference with my colleague, I asked myself “why women?”
After all, more women than men now graduate with undergraduate and graduate degrees. More women than men report that having a successful career is a top priority. And, as of 2010, more women were employed than men. So, what’s the issue? Why the focus on women’s leadership and mentorship? Have we solved the problem?
Not by a long shot. Women are grossly underrepresented in elected office and in leadership positions in the private and public sectors. Women need the strength of other women to be pulled up to or pushed towards the arenas where big decisions are made.
Women need a seat at that table. Abundant data demonstrates the financial and managerial benefits for companies that have a critical mass of women (usually 3 or more individuals) in senior positions that are responsible for the organization’s trajectory. Not only do women need a voice for themselves, they need a voice for industries to successfully pull through this recession.
To get more women in positions of power, we need to use one of our traditional strengths: communication. We must find our own voices, ensure that we are heard, and flex our networking muscles. We need to encourage our sisters to apply for that promotion, seek out that mentoring opportunity, and ask for that raise.
The 550 women attending this year’s conference are in for a treat. We have great speakers and workshops planned. Most importantly, though, I hope the women talk to each other. I hope they find connections and form new bonds. I hope they challenge each other while also finding ways to collaborate. I hope they refrain from gossip that pulls others down but instead spend their time building each other up. They are our future leaders, and I hope they realize how much is at stake.
We need women leaders. Why women? Because we are over half of the population with strengths waiting to be tapped. Why women? Because industries and organizations need our perspective and worldview. Why women? Because we have a lot to say.