The Junior League of Atlanta, Inc. Tackles the Gender Gap in Leadership
By Natalie-Claire Woods Lyda, Editor, Peachtree Papers
For over a century, The Junior League of Atlanta, Inc. (JLA) has not only been serving women and children across the city of Atlanta, but it also serves as a training and development incubator for members – because empowering women is still as mission critical in 2018 as it was when the JLA began in 1916.
Currently, 32 women are on the list of Fortune 500 Chief Executive officers. At 6.4%, this highest percentage of women in the nearly 65-year history of the Fortune 500. American women are receiving collegiate degrees at higher rates than their male counterparts. Merriam-Webster cited a 70% increase in searches for the definition of “Feminism”, making it their most searched for word last year.
Despite these monumental and historical gains, there are only 2 women of color listed on the Fortune 500 CEO list. For the first time in over a decade, there is not a single black woman on that list representing the 20% of American women of color. With women accounting for more than half of the individuals in the country, but holding less than one-third of the elected government positions in 2017; the United States of America falls behind Mexico, China, and Pakistan in terms of proportional representation by women as officials. Women are still only earning an adjusted 80 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts; subsequently paying more in student loan interest and facing higher rates of debt than men due to a longer payoff time frame. With statistics like this, it is not surprising that women ask for and receive, promotions and raises less often and less frequently than men.
The future is…
Models predict that there are still decades; if not centuries, before equal pay is a reality. The political incubators are not expecting proportional representation in elected positions until after 2030. Young women are still showing less interest in even holding high level executive positions in the future. It is still difficult for one to see the value of the fruits of their labor in these fights for equality. Like many Junior Leagues across the nation, JLA is training women leaders to serve on nonprofit and corporate boards; exposing members to a strong network of women achievers; and educating members on key local, regional and national issues. Once our members are trained, they are encouraged to claim a “seat at the table” by pursuing leadership roles, participating in important conversations, and “paying it forward” by bringing other women along. With the future being shaped by passionate women such as those found in The Junior League of Atlanta’s Leadership Institute and Diversity and Inclusion programs, there is still so much hope for equality.