Algumwood’s Christy Tennant Krispin recently moderated a dynamic panel discussion as part of the Max De Pree Center Leadership Lunch, featuring women from a variety of leadership roles in corporate philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. These talented and thought-provoking women were asked to address a topic which has been gaining momentum recently with the questions posed by Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski’s Knowing Your Value, provocative magazine cover stories debating the roles of women in the workplace, and the release of Lean In by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg.
Jacquelline Fuller, Director of Charitable Giving and Advocacy for Google.org, kicked off the discussion with a snapshot of women in leadership. Women are nearly absent in C-Suite roles (CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, etc), she explained, particularly in the STEM sectors (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). As some of the fastest growing industries, the systems, processes, and products being created by STEM businesses are shaping the future. Without women at the decision-making table, these innovations will not reflect the wisdom and needs of over half of our communities.
Madeline Di Nonno, Executive Director for the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, then demonstrated the power of television and movies to shape the possibilities our children see for women. Though comprising 51 percent of the population, onscreen women are outnumbered 3 to 1 by men. And even then, they are often eye-candy, have few aspirations, or are without speaking lines.
Mariana Amatullo, Co-founder and Vice President for Designmatters at the Art Center College of Design, brought awareness to the use of creative design in campaigns targeted against inequity, bias, and issues facing women particularly in the Global South.
Toni Nicole Walker, Associate Dean for the School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary, focused on the need to appeal to both sexes in understanding the implications of a lack of women in formal leadership roles. She believes leaders need the self-awareness and space to lead from their strengths – whether those traits have typically been viewed as masculine or feminine.
I greatly appreciated the emphasis made by the entire panel on constructive and pragmatic solutions to a clearly defined objective. The ultimate goal is not simply to topple men out of leadership positions or attack those who have held a bias, but to see the correlation between women in leadership with success and impact. Toni articulated the objective beautifully when she said, “We need women in executive positions so they can make decisions and have voice in policies, practices and services that impact communities that are predominantly female.”
In concluding the discussion, Christy posed a poignant question: “What wisdom would you give a daughter or female employee?” As someone with three young women as employees, Christy believes she can offer mentorship, “always considering what has empowered me to have the confidence to be a leader.” Toni advised understanding your unique employer and situation and to “cultivate the specific gifts and skills needed for success.” Jacqueline shared this piece of personal advice: “Develop your identity and passions, then stick to them.” Mariana finished by saying, “Learn to live with uncertainty. Embrace risk and learning in this constantly changing world.”
What advice would you give to your daughters and sons? What images of women do you want your children to see during their formative years? What are the possibilities girls and boys should consider for women as they grow up? How important is it for women to have a voice at the table in decision-making, technology, nonprofits and communities? How can women lead from their strengths in industries like STEM?