Even as a new generation of women have entered the workplace after watching their predecessors “crack the glass ceiling,” the number of those in top executive jobs has remained flat. A recent Wall Street Journal feature, “50 Women to Watch,” stated that women hold only 16.4 percent of Fortune 500 corporate officer jobs and make up just one-sixth of corporate directors. In the public sector, women hold 16 percent of the seats in Congress and 24 percent of statewide offices, while just nine of 50 state governors are female. Editor Lawrence Rout wrote, “On one end, there are always a few people who…feel it’s sexist to single out women. When they ask, ‘Are we writing about Men to Watch?’ the short answer is: just about every day.”
As The Peoria Woman marks its 18th year, we find that the results here are about the same. I serve on a number of community and corporate boards and have noticed a worrying trend. If not for the positions held by a handful of females in public corporations, there are few obvious female candidates in the nomination pool. So I ask the question, “Who are we grooming to take our places?”
Groups like NAWBO and magazines such as PINK—and the one in your hands—exist because other women are curious as to how successful women “do it.” Do they have advanced degrees? Are they workaholics? Do they have children? Do their spouses stay at home? How do they balance work and life? A key observation from those “50 Women to Watch” is that nearly all of them have had mentors and role models. Just as “the good ol’ boys” network helped men to obtain jobs and board seats, women are creating their own networks to ensure they’re noticed and involved.
The role of women in society is being rewritten again this year due to the race for the presidency. Says Carol Hymowitz of the WSJ: “Regardless of political views and preferences, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign is stirring strong feelings among female executives about what it means to be a woman…seeking a position of power. Whether she is battling male opponents in debates, having her hair and clothing scrutinized or trying to convince voters that she is strong enough to do tough tasks, the senator is publicly facing challenges that most female executives have grappled with privately throughout their careers. Her determination to win the White House is also prompting many women in business to reflect on their career goals and what price they’re willing to pay to achieve them.”
The stories we share of women in central Illinois inspire our daughters just like those of Hillary Clinton. Few of our grandmothers would have believed that a woman would actually run for president, and not just campaign by her husband’s side. What is most important is that there is a choice. I will support my own daughter whether she chooses to be a stay-at-home mom or aspires to be chairman of a board, or even President of the United States.
Many thanks to our sponsors for supporting women in their careers. And thank you to the women who have shared their life stories with our readers, for you have shown others the reality of life on your road to success. TPW