Archive for January, 2010

Lately I’ve been surprised to hear of a disconnect that exists . . . between what most people “believe” is the status of women in leadership, and the reality.

I am teaching a course that looks at the leadership gap for women–although women have achieved educational equity there is a HUGE leadership gap–the White House Project report Benchmarking Women’s Leadership shows that on average, only 18% of the positional leaders across 10 sectors are women. Now that’s a GAP! The data also shows a very small representation of women of color among those senior leadership ranks as well.

Being immersed in the education and advancement of women, I assumed that most women and men know this gap exists. But most people don’t and when informed of the leadership gap, they are shocked. I know this because the students in my class are teaching ME about the disconnect that exists between what most people “believe” is the status of women in leadership, and the reality. I am so grateful to my students for their candor, thoughtful reflection, and proper outrage as they dig into the leadership gap and the reasons it exists!

Some of my students were able to attend the recent panel conversation hosted by The Women’s College, The White House Project, and others to discuss Benchmarking Women’s Leadership. Marie Wilson, the dynamic national leader of The White House Project, moderated a panel of experts including Dr. Lucy Sanders from National Coalition of Women in Technology, Bertha Lynn from Channel 7 News, Reverend Bonita Bock from Wartburg University, and me. Over 140 were in attendance at DU on Tuesday morning as we talked about the White House Project Report. Marie’s goal is to travel throughout the US promoting the report, discussing its findings, and proposing strategies for solutions. Wilson and others, like Ambassador Linda Tarr-Whelan, propose the 30% Solution, a proven “tipping point” for women where real change in how they can exercise leadership can occur.

So what’s the 30% Solution? According to Tarr-Whelan, when 30% of any leadership level consists of women, their ideas, values, and approaches are more fully part of the entire work–they stop being only “women” and start being board members, C-level leaders, vice presidents, presidents, etc.–you get the idea. According to studies, the organizations that have at least 30% women in leadership have stronger business outcomes, more productive government programs, and access to a wider range of thoughts and solutions to the issues of the day.

Look around the places that you work, worship, or volunteer–who’s in the leadership roles? Who isn’t? Consider what you can do to begin to affect WHO is leading so that we are able to take full advantage of the strengths, intellect, and perspectives of women and men. Between Marie Wilson at the national level–and my students at the local level–I expect there will be more women and men talking about the leadership gap and working diligently to close the gap!


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The Coolest Women We Know

One of the best parts of my job is all the wonderful women I get to meet, women who really care about other women and their career advancement. Tonight I got to hang out with the Coolest Women We Know: Women’s Technology Association. According to their website The Coolest Women is a technology association with a unique, high-caliber membership of truly cool women and sponsor companies in high tech.  The group is committed to fulfilling its mission through:

•    Information/Experience Sharing and Networking Events
•    Support and Mentoring Programs
•    Thought Leadership Initiatives
•    Awards and Recognition
•    Awareness Campaigns
•    Membership and Sponsorship Programs

Coolest Women has grown rapidly since its start in early 2008 in the great Denver area.  Today, the Coolest Women are more than 100 women in Director and above positions representing 90 high-tech companies or companies that serve the high-tech industry.

These are REALLY COOL women. In a field still dominated by men, these women connect, network, advance each other–and truly want to help other women. And they are very interested in our college’s programs in IT and in our Center on Women and Entrepreneurship–they want to speak to our students, mentor our students, and share their wisdom and expertise with us.

Wendy Bohling, the fast talking Virginian with a heart of gold, is the leader of Coolest Women–Wendy is a partner in Magpie , and her bio reads as follows:

Wendy Bohling is a rare breed – a sales person who understands highly complex engineering “geek-speak” first hand. Don’t let her title fool you. She’s actually a tried-and-true, been-in-the-trenches software developer with 20 very successful years of engineering experience.

Wendy has become a dear friend in a very short time, and I am grateful to her for introducing me–and The Women’s College–to the Coolest Women We Know.  I look forward to cool times ahead as these women engage with the students of TWC–thanks Wendy, and all the Coolest Women, for reaching back and lifting up the women who are following in your footsteps!

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Instead of clipping coupons (which I really should do more often!) I tend to clip news articles and editorials that catch my eye. The title of this blog piece is the title of an editorial I’ve been carrying around with me since December 10, 2009 when it was published in The Denver Post. And given the most recent cold snap–unfortunately, one of many this winter–I thought it was time to write a bit about the single, homeless women in our city.

According to the editorial, “though services for homeless men and for women with children have been built up over decades, the number of single, homeless women–among society’s most vulnerable population–has spiked in recent years, and experts who work with homeless women in Denver ay many nights pass without enough shelter beds to go around for these women.” The Post editorial goes on to to call this fact an “appalling reality” and asks its readers to heed this reality as a “call to arms” to serve homeless, single women, and further provide strategies for church and civic groups to be part of the solution.

Upon departing Vietnam,  I came away with several impressions that still stay with me. Like how truly privileged many of us are here in the US. Like how in the US our poverty is somewhat “compartmentalized”–some of us could literally go through day after day, never seeing the depth and breadth of poverty that exists, even here in Denver (those of you who heard my State of the College address remember those statistics about women and poverty in Denver County . . .).

Editorials like the one written about the plight of single, homeless women are rightly designed to break down the walls that exist between those of us with means, and those who are not as fortunate. Terrell Curtis, executive director of The Delores Project <http://www.thedeloresproject.org/&gt; whose mission is to provide “safe, comfortable overnight shelter and services to unaccompanied adult women who are homeless and have limited resources. The model of service is one of hospitality, respect, and regard for the dignity of each guest,” notes in the editorial that “It’s going to take all of us” to address the needs of single, homeless women.

It’s going to take all of us. Might this be a service project that The Women’s College staff, faculty, and students consider as we open for our winter quarter? There are more deeply cold days ahead, and these women need our help. Martin Luther King Jr. said “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr. as quoted in Even Eagles Need a Push p. 109.

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Seriously? Are there really only four singular women in “The 50 Most Influential People in Denver”?

Happy new year everyone! I’m back from my trip to southeast Asia—and I think, finally re-acclimated sleep-wise and finished with jet lag—and the local magazine, 5280, was waiting for me upon my return. I looked with anticipation at this issue entitled “The Power Issue” to see who had been identified as “The 50 Most Influential People in Denver.” Perhaps I was assuming, since Dana Perino, former White House press secretary, was on the cover that I would see more women among the 50 most influential—was I wrong!

I found the first woman of the top 50 at #10—Denver Health CEO Patricia Gabow, known nationally as an innovator and leader in the health care industry. At #20 was Sarah Siegel-Magness and her husband, Gary Magness, the power couple that produced the landmark movie “Precious,” followed by new Denver Metro Chamber CEO Kelly Brough at #21, and then by Pat Stryker paired with Al Yates (Al was the third man of color listed in the top 50) at #22. I had to turn a few more pages to find at #39 Leslie Leinwand and Tom Cech, directors of the Colorado Initiative in Molecular Biology, and finally at #43 Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO) and at #44 Michele Ostrander, head of the Denver affiliate of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Tally—out of 50, four individual women, and three additional women paired with a male personal or business partner. And as far as I can tell, no women of color. Hmmmm.

So what do you think? Personally, I am a bit surprised—actually, I was shocked. It’s 2010. There aren’t more women of influence, of power, in Denver?

I’m teaching a course this quarter in the college’s leadership studies program that will explore this phenomena—the absence of women at the top of organizations—and the reasons for their absence. One of the first studies I am having my students review is the latest White House Project (www.whitehouseproject.org) Benchmarking Report. The report documents the fact that, on average, women constitute a mere 18% of the positional leaders in any sector. It’s 2010.

Marie Wilson, the dynamic leader of the White House Project, will be facilitating a panel discussion on the Benchmarking Report the morning of January 26 in our beloved Chambers Center. I will be part of the panel discussing the report from the perspective of my sector—higher education—and others will provide perspective on a host of other sectors.

In the meantime, I am considering having my students this quarter conduct a study of their own—to help identify the women of influence in Denver and send that list to the editors of 5280. And I am reminded, yet again, of the importance of having a college dedicated to women, setting the expectation that its students will be leaders locally, nationally, and globally. For today, it’s clear that the “local” focus is as critical as ever.

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