A few days ago was International Women’s Day and along with worldwide events recognizing our progress it is also a time to reflect on the long road that still lies ahead for real equality when women in the U.S. and abroad are still struggling for basic things like safety, health care and human rights.
Today, I also think about the outstanding and empowering women in our lives and those that inspire girls to have big, bold dreams for the future.
One of my favorite memories while working in the Clinton White House was when the President appointed Madeleine Albright as Secretary of State in 1997. She was the first woman to hold that post. He made this decision despite push back from many in the foreign policy community that believed a woman Secretary of State would not be respected in many parts of the world.
I asked the President if he was surprised by the letters, telegrams and calls he had received for making what many felt was a brave appointment. He shared with me that he was indeed surprised but he said, “I chose her not because she was a women but because she is the most qualified for this position.”
What is also significant is that 15 years later, that the post of Secretary of State has been held by two other women, Condoleezza Rice and currently, Hilary Clinton.
There are many examples of firsts that we celebrate today that change our perception of what is possible for women around the world. However, we also stand here today in 2012 with low representation of women in leadership ranks in corporate America, just 14% (Catalyst, 2012) and only 16% of global board seats are held by women (Catalyst, 2012).
The good news is that corporate America is waking up to the economic necessity of harnessing the talents of women. There are many CEOs who are champions in this effort including Jim Turley of Ernst & Young, Bob Moritz of PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Jeff Dailey at Farmers Group, Inc.
Like many others across the globe committed the empowerment and advancement of women and girls, this year is a critical foundation year for the Center for Women and Business at Bentley University where we are working with corporate America to share best practices on how to retain, support and promote women. I encourage you to find out more about what we’re doing and join us at our Inaugural Forum on April 27, 2012
I see true success when we celebrate women’s achievements throughout the year and not just on one day. It’s at this point, when women are more equally represented at the table and participate in the decision-making on critical issues such as health, education and welfare, that women can truly advance.