If you were born past 1970, you likely don’t remember the 70”s song “Brand New Key” but as I was on a plane today with the headphones in, the song came in on rotation of my recently added playlist (nostalgic or maybe just too much Guardians of the Galaxy movies?). It made me smile out loud with the lyrics “I’ve done alright for a girl” as I was thinking about today being International Women’s Day….because I have done “alright for a girl.” Not only is today a day of reflection but the 100th anniversary of the global celebration of women’s efforts in social, economic, political and cultural contributions. It might seem trite to need to create a day to celebrate, but trust me, this unique recognition is still needed as we continue to work to move the ball forward for all of us, regardless of gender.
I grew up with a “traditional” mother who didn’t work outside of the home and had not gone on to higher education with a unique twist of moving from Germany to the United States to marry my father after his post-collegiate stint in the military. My father was a corporate guy, educated at MIT and Harvard, with exacting and high standards. I always had plans and aspirations but even my father was dismissive of professional women in his space and I somehow always managed to be the “exception” to the rule when it came to what I could achieve after years of running school student bodies – from elementary school through college – and gaining various leadership positions in my academic and professional life. He tried so hard to “get it” for me but now, nothing warms my heart like seeing how proud he is of his fierce and successful granddaughters.
That generational and cultural transition is one of the reasons why celebrating or at least recognizing the important of this day has a continued value. It has for a hundred years and might for another hundred more. Of the 10 Fortune 100 CEO appointments in 2017, only one top spot went to a woman. And, while women hold almost 52 percent of all professional-level jobs, American women lag substantially behind men in leadership positions:
– holding only 14.6 percent of executive officer slots
– 8.1 percent of top earners
– 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs
I think of my daughter, Leah when I recount that in the legal field women are 45.4 percent of the associates but only 25 percent of the non equity partners and 15 percent of equity partners. I think of my daughter, Kelsey, entering the national security arena facing barriers that even I have not experienced regardless of her vast knowledge in topics frankly scary to me like the study of nuclear proliferation. I am too afraid to even look at the gloomy statistics she faces….yet, they both persist and we – our country and our economy – are all better for it.
This is what we know…when more women work, economies grow and diverse leadership is good for companies, organizations and all of us.