Kamala Harris. Sheryl Sandberg. Billie Jean King. Who do you think of when you think of women leaders? What empowers them? What empowers you? Why does it matter? Women are half of the world’s population, yet represent only a fraction of our leaders. This is problematic because the world needs the talents, values and contributions of women in order to create economic opportunities that provide secure, joyful and productive lives for all of us. Let’s face it. The last few years haven’t been the greatest for women leaders. We saw the best prepared candidate of all time, of either gender defeated for President by someone who had never won political office and whose record on respecting the achievements and potential of women was, to say the least, not promising. But we cannot afford to lose heart.
Research is clear: inclusive leaders and organizations outperform those that are not. Yet, women remain underrepresented in all levels of leadership in almost all fields of endeavor.
Even with the best of intentions, unconscious bias can distort critical decisions influencing who moves ahead within an organization. Mentoring, according to Sheryl Sandberg, is an essential way to increase women’s leadership opportunities. But there aren’t enough mentors to go around. “Real equality in the workplace and the home,” she says, “will make us all better off. When we use the full talents of the population, our countries and companies are more productive.” Yet true equality will not be achievable until men and women share home responsibilities equally and women are able to benefit from the mentoring opportunities that further men’s careers.
When women leaders are empowered and organizations are led by inclusive leadership teams, the world will be a better, fairer, more compassionate place. Here in the Bay Area, a much larger number of empowered women leaders will result in more innovation, job creation and greater prosperity, benefitting all of us. Women’s leadership is more imperative now than ever.
The next granting cycle of How Women Give will focus on Leadership and Empowerment, including arts, sports and technology. Join us as we support organizations that mentor and empower the diverse leaders of the future who will make the world better for all of us.