The Glass Hammer, January 14th, 2010
Jacqueline B. Libster (New York City)
Creating workforce gender equality is a multifaceted project, including the work to help women at the top right now, as well as planting the seeds for success for future generations. That’s why many organizations are working to help girls and young women develop leadership skills that will carry them from the classroom to the boardroom, by:
- introducing career planning and mentoring.
- mitigating isolation in male dominated fields.
- maintaining work-life balance.
- highlighting the unconscious bias that exists in schools, the admissions process, and in hiring, promoting and retaining women.
Their efforts are helping add women to front end of the career pipeline, ensuring that there will be more women in the coming years to help crack the glass ceiling.
- The National Center for Women & Information Technology  was created in 2004 to identify the reasons fewer women were choosing and remaining in the IT field and to simultaneously increase women’s participation in IT. Founded by Lucy Sanders, herself a Bell Labs  Fellow, NCWIT aims to promote the conscious awareness of woman in science and technology by quantifying the benefits to employers who recruit, retain and advance women in these fields. NCWIT starts young, with efforts to introduce computing, innovation and design concepts in elementary school. The organization continues through college and graduate school levels by working to minimize bias in the admissions process. Additionally, it supports mid-career women with re-entry training and mentorship programs.
Proving the value of women on the research team is part of NCWIT’s mission to encourage young women to enter the technology field. A recent study  by Dr. Catherine Ashcraft of NCWIT analyzed women’s participation in technology patenting, concluding that gender-diverse work teams have shown “improved innovation, problem-solving and productivity” which creates a no-lose situation for employers who actively recruit diverse talent.
In fact, “mixed-gender teams produced the most frequently cited patents – with citation rates that were 26 to 42 percent higher” than single-gender teams.
- The American Association for University Women  (AAUW) works to change public policy at the federal level for college-aged woman. The organization’s initiatives include promoting fair pay, family sick leave and the eradication of poverty. Additionally, the organization has maintained a commitment to offering leadership programs that shape the lives of thousands of women and girls. For example, Its $tart $mart  program teaches young woman the skills to negotiate their salary and benefits, promoting earning equity.
Kate C. Farrar, MPA , AAUW’s Director of Leadership Programs, explains, “Learning to negotiate fair and equal pay is vital to women, their families, and future generations. Through our partnership with the WAGE Project on $tart $mart Salary Negotiation Workshops, AAUW is enlisting community leaders from around the nation as part of an ongoing effort to empower and provide young women who are college juniors and seniors with the appropriate tools to negotiate fair and realistic salaries and benefits upon graduation. These workshops  will be offered on 500 college campuses over the next three years.”
Helping young women develop skills to run for elected office is another way AAUW works to prepare tomorrow’s future female leaders. Farrar explains, “AAUW is collaborating with American University Women and Politics Institute  and Running Start  on Campaign College  which is cultivating a greater pipeline of women who will potentially run for elected office. Campaign College is the only program that trains college women to run for student government and is being offered at ten college sites across the nation and Jamaica this spring.”
She continues, “Both of these endeavors are developing the next generation of women leaders who are the critical players in our advancement as a nation.”
- Girls Inc.  is a national organization with the mission to “encourage all girls to be strong, smart and bold.” The organization’s programs support education, economic and financial literacy, health initiatives, sports participation and prevention of abuse and violence.
Additionally, the organization advocates for improving standards in girls’ education in order to ensure workforce gender equality later. In July, Marcia Brumit Kropf, the COO of Girls Inc., testified in front of the Congressional Subcommittee on Research and Science Education  at a hearing on Encouraging the Participation of Female Students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. She told the subcommittee , “gains in education have not translated into workplace parity as of yet.” Brumit Kropf encouraged the Subcommittee to work on a four-prong approach to increase girls’ participation in STEM fields: Supporting the National Science Foundation ’s science education programs, continued funding of STEM education programs, encourage “gender equitable” teaching methods and enforcement of Title IX  programs. She concluded by telling the Subcommittee of the importance of “retaining girls and women at each stage” of the STEM career pipeline.
Additionally, the organization provides programming and resources to help girls reach their full potential in the workforce. For example, the “Girls Bill of Rights ” fosters resistance to gender stereotypes which 60% of girls say limits their “right to be themselves.”
- The Forté Foundation’s  goal is to “influence perceptions among women that careers in business can be flexible and philosophically rewarding.” The organization was founded in 2001 after a study indicated that many women were discouraged from pursing an MBA due to “lack of female role models, concerns with the compatibility of careers in business with work/life balance and need for greater encouragement from employers to purse an MBA.”
Its mission is still urgent eight years later, given that women comprise “less than 16% of corporate officers in America’s largest corporations.”
Elissa Sangster, Executive Director of Forté explained, “In order to grow the pipeline of women leaders, Forté believes it is critical for young women to receive early access to information on the many and varied opportunities in business. In a recent survey, Forté asked women leaders if they would have been more interested in business had they known more about the options in college. 92% of the respondents said ‘yes’.”
The Forté Foundation supports work/life balance initiatives and networking, and it has created a Forté Fellowship to increase the number of women who pursue an MBA. The Foundation also works to “raise awareness of the impact women can have on business” and the economy.
Workforce sustainability and diversity are driving the global economy, which cannot survive unless we can rely on our greatest natural resource – human capital. Gender diversity strengthens the entire talent pool. These organizations, along with many others, are working to ensure a career pipeline for future female business leaders – as well as economic success for generations to come.