Oprah, Girls and the Executive Suite

Oprah Winfrey poses backstage in the press room with the Cecil B. DeMille Award for her “outstanding contribution to the entertainment field” at the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, CA on January 7, 2018.

Women are underrepresented as business leaders, and the way to change that is to start early

I wanted to share this great article written by Jennifer Openshaw; in MarketWatch. Nearly 15 years later, shockingly, the needle for women in the workplace hasn’t moved. Sadly, some 75% of abused women say they stay in bad relationships because of financial concerns. No wonder women fear speaking up when there’s so much on the line.

At the Golden Globes this week, you said you want “all girls to know a new day is on the horizon.”

And you are right. So how do we give those girls, like my own daughters, that new day if we don’t create the pathways for them?

We not only need to focus on today’s workplace; we need to change it. That, as you well know Oprah, starts with the next generation. It’s about creating the pipeline so that women will rise to the top, as CEOs or as entrepreneurs — like yourself.

We need more programs like the small pilot taking place in Connecticut to equip young women, our future leaders, with the confidence and the business skills to truly thrive. Just halfway into Girls With Impact’s online academy, fully 100% of girls say they feel more “career ready,” and that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what they are getting out of this program.

Why are programs like this needed? Think about these ugly stats: Only 6% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, 14% of engineers are women, and 36% of women are entrepreneurs.

How many of us have an Apple AAPL, +1.03% product of some sort? Women make up 50% of the professional workforce, but at Apple (just one example), what share of women hold tech jobs or leadership roles? Only 20% and 28%, respectively.

It’s a firm’s culture — with Uber serving as the poster child — that’s driving women to leave companies, even at the top.

After working in Silicon Valley and in the media, and seeing all the talk in Davos among CEOs about wanting to drive gender diversity, I realized we’ll never change the trajectory for women until leadership at the top changes.

So how do we change this? How do we really change the trajectory for women in the workplace that we’re all talking about while solving some of our nation’s most pressing issues?

The answer is with those young women 14, 15 and 16 who are coming up the pipeline. Why?

It starts young. Unlike our generation, this generation is leaps and bounds ahead. They’re capable of building things, even in high school. As one father told me: “This is business conditioning my daughter needs”; “it starts now.”

Some schools have business or economics in high school but, frankly, it’s hit or miss. We as a society are guilty of holding women back if we don’t provide better, more relevant education earlier.

Early proof. In the Entrepreneurship Talent Gap report, we found that while just 18% of women participate in college business competitions, a whopping 60% of the winning (first-place) teams included a woman among the founders. As compelling, 40% of the first-place teams had a woman CEO. Yes, these young women are few, but of high quality. If we don’t show the young women behind them — before they hit college or the workplace — what they’re capable of, they will miss out on these economic and leadership opportunities.

Read the full article