QUESTION: What will it take for women to achieve gender parity in leadership positions?

Barbara Quijano Decker, Executive director, Catholic Charities – Des Moines, Iowa
Changes in our leadership culture, business models and in education. Valuing qualities that demonstrate how women are effective and provide leadership in the workplace. Women mentoring and helping women. Advancing women to assume leadership roles in their personal and professional lives. Empower women to achieve their full potential. Sharing testimonials about women in leadership positions. I am grateful to have been associated with organizations, such as Drake, Mercy and Catholic Charities, where women and men who are leaders are valued and recognized.

Angela Jackson, Senior vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, Athene; owner, the Great Frame Up
A big portion of this requires intentionality. It also requires fathers, husbands, brothers and sons to “speak up” and be champions for women in spaces where women are not present in leadership. I think it also requires women who are in a position of influence to be inclusive and intentional to promote other women.

Lisa Shimkat, State director, America’s Small Business Development Centers Iowa
Providing mentorship and sponsorship programs can help women navigate their careers and overcome challenges. Showing the advantages of diversity in leadership to not only the organization’s culture but their bottom line. It begins with us. We need to create those opportunities and women must support women. That is truly a key to the solution for the future of achieving gender parity.

Laura Sweet, Vice president and chief operating officer, Des Moines Performing Arts
While men play a role, it’s vital to have women creating opportunities for other women. It is truly our best path toward parity.

Terri Vaughan
, Professional director of the Emmett J. Vaughan Institute of Risk Management and Insurance, University of Iowa Tippie College of Business
I think we are making progress here. There is considerable pressure on companies to have more diversity in their boards and executive ranks. That pressure is creating more focus on developing diverse talent for the future. So I think we are on the right track.

Maria Volante, President, Volante Consulting
Opportunity. Women simply need to be given the opportunity. We need to actively attract and recruit women for all roles. There are areas where we need to be very deliberate about doing the hard work to welcome women in and support them. We need to crush dated perceptions by allowing women to perform. We need to see women in critical roles succeed. By seeing the success we will redefine the image and definition of that very success. All of this must be supported by keeping momentum for zero tolerance for violence and harassment of women. Fighting for equal pay and compensation. Educational equality. The list goes on.

Mary Wells
, Treasurer, Polk County; co-founder and president, Investing In My Future Inc.
To achieve gender parity in leadership positions, current leaders must be intentional about recruiting women to the candidate pool and be equitable in the selection process and salary offerings.

Kim Willis, Community volunteer
Having open and honest conversations with others is extremely powerful and important. Many discussions these days are difficult due to preconceived assumptions and individuals not being open to listen to an opposing view. If people want to see a real change with gender equality in leadership, they need to be willing to hear it from a different perspective than what they may have in the past.

Claudia Schabel, President and CEO, Schabel Solutions Inc.
Vision, courage, commitment, leadership and allies. Leaders have to re-imagine their leadership teams, understand and accept the value that gender parity brings. The research is clear. For some, it’s easier to keep the status quo, but those who challenge the status quo and attain gender parity will outperform those who don’t. Our clients understand this and are being intentional about making progress now in order to succeed in the near and long-term futures.

Shaimaa Aly, Head of business assurance, Wells Fargo
On the organizational level, I believe we need intentionally structured mentorship programs for people who could occupy the C-suite. There are so many barriers in any organizational structure, and without removing the roadblocks and investing in succession planning, we won’t achieve gender parity in leadership positions. On the individual level, I encourage women to invest in their own learning, find a mentor or two or 100, take professional certifications that are applicable to your field, and don’t forget to take care of your physical and mental well-being.

Categories: Leadership