On our 30th Anniversary we are recognizing 30 stellar women from diverse corners of our broad network who through their efforts have advanced women’s issues, promoted women’s leadership and changed the way the world views women and girls. All have been nominated by their peers for their outstanding work.
Aileen Lee argues that by adding new blood to the boardroom, companies get a four-fer, or more: 1) gender diversity, and in most cases, age diversity around the table; 2) better understanding of core customers; 3) Social-Mobile-Local expertise and insight into digital platforms like Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, Twitter, Path, Square, Flipboard and Pinterest that are fundamentally changing business; and 4) hyper growth and rapid innovation DNA.
Why should we care? For one, women are the power users of many products and it’s just smart business to have an understanding of key customers around the table. Could you imagine a game company without any gamers on the leadership team or board?
If you’re not aware, studies also show companies with gender diversity at the top drive better financial performance on multiple measures – for example, 36% better stock price growth and 46% better return on equity. And, studies show the more women, the better the results. This is likely because teams with more females demonstrate higher collective intelligence and better problem solving ability. So it’s probably not a coincidence the world’s most admired companies have more women on their boards than the average company.
Perhaps our societal knee-jerk critique of Whitney Houston’s life and death can point us to what I see as a glaring issue: the truth that millions of us waste our talent – though less ruinously and more privately – every single day, without so much as drugs or the intense pressures of fame to blame, arguesTara-Nicholle Nelson.
’m not saying that Whitney Houston’s story or her fate were anything less than absolutely devastating. But when it comes to the specific, line-item tragedy of the loss of her talent, who’s to say that that tragedy was any more tragic than the lost or wasted talent possessed by those of us who are sitting on the couch, shrinking from our God-given destinies because:
we’re afraid someone will criticize us, or that we might fail;
we’re uncertain about how to pursue our dreams – and uncertainty is scary;
the mean girls in high school talked badly about us;
The NAACP, founded in 1909, and the National Urban League, founded in xxx are the most visible organizations, but in 1935 both the National Council of Negro Women (led by Dr. Height from 1957 to her death in 2010) and the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs were founded. Even earlier, in 1896, the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs was established. Mary Church Terrell was the organization’s first president and this group, still operating, is the oldest organization that works for the benefit of black women and families.
Until 1960, most African American women worked as maids, domestics, or private household workers. The National Domestic Workers Union was founded in 1968 by Dorothy Lee Bolden, who started working at age 12 for about $1.50 a week. The organization was dedicated to professionalize domestic work, providing training and advocating for fair working conditions. This was yet another example of African American women coming together to improve their lives and those of their families.
There is a rich history of African American sororities and fraternities. Among the sororities, Alpha Kappa Alpha was founded at Howard University in 1908. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated was also founded at Howard in 1913 by women who broke off from AKA to emphasize their commitment to scholarship, service, and sisterhood. Delta women marched in the Women’s Suffrage March in 1913, despite discouragement from white women who did not want to mix race matters with suffrage issues. (Full disclosure – I’m a Delta). Two other black women’s sororities, Zeta Phi Beta and Sigma Gamma Rho, are organizations that also focus on service. All of the black women’s sororities are committed to uplifting the community and to providing scholarship assistance to students.
I’ll admit it may seem odd that being labeled “angry” could serve any black person well. Let’s face it, leaders of the Civil Rights movement likely adopted a non-violent stance for both moral and practical reasons.
But in a recent study I conducted with Robert Livingston and Ella Washington of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, we found that black women leaders who displayed dominant behavior when interacting with subordinates got more favorable reviews than their white female or black male counterparts who behaved the same way. In fact, black women were evaluated comparably to white male leaders who displayed similarly dominant and assertive behavior.
Existing studies have shown that professional white men have been granted greater status and power when they’ve expressed anger rather than sadness. Our findings suggest that black women may benefit from such expressions, too. In other words, because assertiveness and dominance are stereotypical characteristics for black women, they may not provoke the same backlash as they would for white women and black men.
There is a crisis of representation in the media. We live in a racially and ethnically diverse nation that is 51% female, but the news media itself remains staggeringly limited to a single demographic.
The media is the single most powerful tool at our disposal; it has the power to educate, effect social change, and determine the political policies and elections that shape our lives. Our work in diversifying the media landscape is critical to the health of our culture and democracy.
Consider the Following Statistics
According to the Global Media Monitoring Project 2010, 24% of the people interviewed, heard, seen, or read about in mainstream broadcast and print news were female. Only 13% of stories focused specifically on women and 6% on issues of gender equality or inequality.
If you attended the opening address by Angela Merkel or the private dinner in which Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee held a group of financiers in thrall with her life story, you might think that fabulous, powerful women dominate Davos. But the fact is, Davos has a woman problem.
The first day, which included honours for the Japanese violinist Midori and a screening of the biopic of Aung San Suu Kyi, may have ended with a party to "honour women innovators" such as the web entrepreneur Arianna Huffington. with guests departing into the snowy darkness of Davos to the rousing sounds of the 1980s disco classic Ladies' Night. And the biggest day of this year's World Economic Forum (WEF) on Friday may include a main room event discussing "women as the way forward".
But while the impact of women this year may be bigger than ever, organisers keen to encourage and then trumpet their success cannot hide the fact that their numbers are still small.
Despite a new quota system demanding that the largest members send one woman for every four men, just 17% of the 2,500 delegates are female. Despite a push to encourage more women on to panels to discuss the issues of the day, just 20% of those invited to do so are women. The majority of panels, especially on key economic topics, are still dominated by (white) men.
Would the world be more peaceful if women were in charge? A challenging new book by the Harvard University psychologist Steven Pinker says that the answer is “yes.”
In The Better Angels of Our Nature, Pinker presents data showing that human violence, while still very much with us today, has been gradually declining. Moreover, he says, “over the long sweep of history, women have been and will be a pacifying force. Traditional war is a man’s game: tribal women never band together to raid neighboring villages.” As mothers, women have evolutionary incentives to maintain peaceful conditions in which to nurture their offspring and ensure that their genes survive into the next generation.
Skeptics immediately reply that women have not made war simply because they have rarely been in power. If they were empowered as leaders, the conditions of an anarchic world would force them to make the same bellicose decisions that men do. Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, and Indira Gandhi were powerful women; all of them led their countries to war.
But it is also true that these women rose to leadership by playing according to the political rules of “a man’s world.” It was their success in conforming to male values that enabled their rise to leadership in the first place. In a world in which women held a proportionate share (one-half) of leadership positions, they might behave differently in power.
By her own example, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook demonstrates all that women can achieve when they have the talent, drive and opportunity to succeed, and she is paving the way for other women to follow her path to the top (“The $1.6 Billion Woman, Staying on Message,” Feb. 5).
But research cautions that there are many other barriers, some invisible, that continue to block women from success: subtle and not-so-subtle biases about what constitutes leadership, a lack of mentors and sponsors to pull women through the pipeline, and a corporate culture that may lack flexibility and other policies to enable women to advance.
Women’s representation on Fortune 500 boards continues to languish. With women accounting for a majority of Facebook users, it is in the company’s interest to ensure that women are represented throughout decision-making. Let’s hope that when the company goes public, Ms. Sandberg’s trailblazing will include inviting women onto the board. Linda Basch, Ph.D.
Manhattan, Feb. 6
The writer is president of the National Council for Research on Women.•