Women’s History Month: Reflect, Celebrate, and Look Forward

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Women’s History Month is a time to reflect on and celebrate the recent strides that women have made while simultaneously focusing our vision on the future we are creating.

From increased representation in politics to breaking glass ceilings in corporate boardrooms, women have been impacting society in unprecedented ways. Across the globe, we’ve witnessed women assuming leadership roles, advocating for gender equality, and challenging traditional norms, paving the way for future generations.

Across the world, women are increasingly assuming pivotal roles in politics, exemplified by the election of numerous female heads of state and government. In 1990, only 22 countries had ever been led by a woman head of government or state, whereas by 2023, that number had reached 87. As of January of 2024, 26 countries are currently led by women.

In the business world, the push for gender diversity has gained significant traction in recent years, both yielding striking results and highlighting some conspicuous absences. McKinsey and Company, in their 9thannual Women in the Workplace report, observed, “This year’s research reveals some hard-fought gains at the top, with women’s representation in the C-suite at the highest it has ever been. However, with lagging progress in the middle of the pipeline—and a persistent underrepresentation of women of color — true parity remains painfully out of reach.”

It’s no secret that women in executive leadership is good for business, from increasing profits to improving customer experiences. But why? Research shows that the way executive leadership teams think and make decisions change when women join the ranks. Specifically, women bring more openness to change and less appetite for risk.

Harvard Business Review explores a few reasons this might be the case. First “to advance to the highest corporate levels, many women need to walk a difficult tightrope: They often learn to stand out by promoting novel strategies in an effort to overcome stereotypes of timidness, but at the same time, the hyper-visibility that comes with being the only one of an underrepresented group drastically increases the professional costs of making mistakes, and so they learn to carefully weigh the benefits of their innovative proposals with the risks of potential failure.” Additionally, research has shown that women in executive positions are less concerned with maintaining tradition and less afraid to disrupt the status quo, and behavioral psychology informs us that these outlooks are contagious.

Despite the proven impact of women in the C-suite, the challenge for most women remains how to get there; or more accurately, how to take the first steps in that direction. McKinsey suggests that women in the workforce are held back less by a “glass ceiling” than a “broken rung.”

“For the ninth consecutive year, women face their biggest hurdle at the first critical step up to manager. This year, for every 100 men promoted from entry level to manager, 87 women were promoted. And this gap is trending the wrong way for women of color: this year, 73 women of color were promoted to manager for every 100 men, down from 82 women of color last year. As a result of this “broken rung,” women fall behind and can’t catch up.”

For women looking to rise to leadership despite the obstacles, or for anyone looking to champion women in the workplace, Women Business Collaborative exists to disseminate research and resources to drive accountability and accelerate change. Their White Paper “Women in the C-Suite: Pathways to Success” highlights 20 women in executive leadership and the paths they found or forged to get to where they are today. Organizations like The Impact Center provide resources and programs, like their Women’s Executive Leadership Program, designed to accelerate women’s growth in professional leadership.

Highlighting Strong Female Leaders

Below are a few outstanding women leaders whom Traci has had the pleasure of working with over the years. These women hold positions in senior leadership and are intentional in their efforts to empower other women. We encourage you to visit their LinkedIn profiles and learn more about the impact they are having in the business world and throughout the communities they serve. Simply click on any individual’s name below the image to learn more!

This month, as we reflect on and celebrate everything that women bring to the table, we leave you with these powerful words from Maya Angelou. We hope you will consider them — and draw strength from them — in those moments where you take opportunities to hold space and stand tall.

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.” 

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