Vail Daily letter: Women need some help from men |

Vail Daily letter: Women need some help from men

Lisa Ponder
Vail, CO, Colorado

Lou Schultz (Valley Voices: “Women’s progress stalls”), I too was at the viewing of “Miss Representation” at the Vilar Center, and I can tell you where all the women went who were very involved in the civil rights and ERA movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

They went to work, graduate school, and ran for local office. They worked hard and smart, only to find that they were not welcome at the top in the command-and-control traditional cultures in most of corporate America and in most local and national governments.

Unfortunately for our country, their daughters and granddaughters are finding the same cultural barriers to top leadership positions in both business and government.

Trust me, women are not comfortable with the status quo, but we are not in the positions of power in great enough numbers to change the status quo.

Men are.

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In 2011 women represented 47 percent of the American work force and earned more undergraduate and graduate degrees then men. However, they only represented 3.2 percent of the CEOs of Fortune 500 corporations and held only 16.1 percent of board of director seats for those companies. They were only 7.5 percent of the top corporate earners and 14.1 percent of corporate executives at those same 500 organizations.

Those numbers have remained flat for the past six years.

Women constituted 54 percent of voters in the 2008 elections. However, only 16.8 percent of the House of Representatives and 17 percent of the Senate are women.

Only 34 women have ever been elected governor of a state and only six out of our current 50 governors are women.

State Legislatures are only 24 percent women.

The United States trails much of the world, ranking 90th, in the number of women in our national government.

While their numbers are few, there are companies and governments consistently able to move women into top leadership positions at double and triple the national average.

While many of these organizations have specific programs in place to advance women leaders, others do not. What they do have in common are holistic cultures. Or in other words, cultures that both permit and encourage work and family responsibilities to integrate smoothly instead of conflicting with one another.

Holistic cultures are characterized by flexible work arrangements, inclusive and collaborative decision making, and the ability to thrive with constant change.

Women’s stall in progress toward parity in leadership in both government and business is a cultural issue that must be addressed by both women and men if the status quo is to change.

To change an organization’s culture, the top leaders (CEOs, executive officers, presidents, senators, governors, etc.) must support the change with both their hearts and their wallets.

In most organizations both public and private, those top leaders are baby boomer white men with a spouse at home.

When the cultures in our businesses and governments support both women and men as parents, care-givers and community members who want and need flexibility in how and when they work throughout their careers, we will achieve parity.

Our women leaders are still going to work, graduate school, running for office and most definitely voting. However, many of the most driven and successful women leaders are starting their own businesses rather than staying in corporate cultures that don’t appreciate or reward their unique contributions.

They are running as independents rather than joining the corrosive political culture in either party — or just getting out altogether, as Sen. Olympia Snowe.

Your analysis of the Republican Party is not supported by the data. In 2010, 10 incumbent Democratic congresswomen lost their seats, while no Republican women lost.

We are not waiting. We are not letting the men make the rules.

But we can’t seize the CEO position in a Fortune 500 company on our own or elect ourselves president.

That has to be a joint venture with the men in our lives.

The men of your generation, Mr. Schultz, need to work collaboratively with the women in their lives and in the organizations they lead to make the change happen.

What are they waiting for?

Lisa Ponder


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