WomenLead: How can we begin to level the playing field?
By Nancy Mansfield
The statistics are well known: Women remain severely underrepresented in leadership positions, even though they now earn 60 percent of college and university degrees and are entering the professional workplace in greater numbers than ever.
Somewhere along the way they get passed over, get stuck,or drop out. When they get to the top, only 14 percent of C-suite executives are women. Among women of color it’s only 4 percent. Women are breaking the glass ceiling, but there’s still a sticky floor.
Enter Georgia State University’s WomenLead program, created when an Atlanta-based angel investor contacted the J. Mack Robinson College of Business and said she was interested in addressing issues of gender parity. WomenLead addresses the gender gap by empowering young women at a pivotal time in their lives to aim for leadership roles in sectors including business, science, government and nonprofit fields.
Started in 2015, WomenLead began as a pilot course with 30 students. Since then, more than 250 students have participated, and the program has expanded from one course, WomenLead in Business, to WomenLead in Science for those in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, and will add a section, WomenLead in Policy and Politics, in fall 2017. Although the program is based in the J. Mack Robinson College of Business, it serves the entire Georgia State community.
WomenLead is unique for the diversity of students it serves. Georgia State is among the most diverse universities in the nation, shaped by a distinctly enterprising university culture that values ambition and hard work. We leverage this diversity in WomenLead and focus on self-awareness and self-efficacy, as well as women in the workplace, career-readiness and engagement opportunities with professionals in the Atlanta business community. Networking, roundtable discussions, corporate visits and individual reflection are hallmarks of the program. As for outcomes, students frequently tell us WomenLead made them feel more confident in their gifts and abilities and readiness to take on the world.
Through WomenLead, we aim to unlock the full potential of our students and to place them on a trajectory for lifelong success. We are planting the seed early for leadership and with more than 250 students already affected; WomenLead is on its way to leveling the playing field and truly changing the world.
Nancy Mansfield is director of Georgia State University’s WomenLead program.