“Utah ‘moving the needle’ for women in leadership”
By Wendy Leonard
Posted: Friday, May 13th, 2016
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is the second state in the nation to adopt a plan to get more women in leadership positions and also urge more women to run for public office.
And it’s working, according to the Women’s Leadership Institute.
“Organizations are hearing and following the drum beat for women’s leadership,” said Pat Jones, founder and CEO of the nonprofit organization housed at the Salt Lake Chamber. “We are moving the needle.”
The group celebrated the anniversary of its ElevateHER Challenge on Thursday, inviting more Utah corporations and businesses to take part in the cause — looking for ways to increase the percentage of women in all positions, but specifically leadership; monitoring pay between men and women within the organization; and establishing development programs to foster a leadership pipeline.
“People are recognizing more and more how important it is to have women in the workforce and have them play a bigger role in the workforce,” said Crystal Maggelet, CEO at FJ Management, formerly Flying J. “Public recognition is very important for women’s upward progression.”
While Maggelet rose through the family-owned petroleum business, she said she is still often the only woman in the room in a male-dominated industry.
“I could have been intimidated, but I have felt that the men treat me great. I’ve viewed it as an opportunity to be a woman and be in those settings,” she said, adding that she thinks every company, including her own, can do better to foster leadership opportunities for women.
Provo Mayor John Curtis joined the challenge last year, when ElevateHER launched. He said it has helped everyone in city management be more successful.
“It’s not about men being bad. It’s about all of us being good,” Curtis said.
The Women’s Leadership Institute provides resources to women in companies or those interested in politics to better themselves and prepare for promotion and acceptance.
“We feel that leadership needs to be nurtured,” said Jones, a former state Senator.
Betsy Myers, a leader in advocating for women in business and the first director of the White House Office for Women’s Initiatives and Outreach during the Clinton administration, said the workforce is changing and the conversation must as well.
“We’ve gone from a problem to be fixed to a competitive edge to be seized,” she said, adding that business leaders are scrambling to retain talent in the low unemployment market. And talent, Myers said, “comes in different genders, different colors and at different ages.”
Recruiting quality employees is easier than retaining them, she said, adding that all workers want to be mentored, inspired and valued in their workplace.
Jack Zenger, CEO at local professional services firm Zenger Folkman, said women workers are a “huge untapped potential” for businesses. Following extensive data collection, Zenger said his firm found that “women outperform men by a wildly statistically significant margin,” and odds of employing them are good.
“It seems that women do have the propensity to follow through, take initiative, to go the extra mile,” he said. “There’s just a number of very consistent behaviors that seem to set them apart.”
It also makes sense for businesses to take women seriously, as the majority of college graduates in the world are women, and women also make many of the financial decisions as consumers, Myers noted. She said women are more involved than men in buying decisions surrounding health care, education, groceries and vehicles, but also purchase 60 percent of men’s clothing sold around the world.
But change doesn’t come easily.
On a suggestion from Myers, who helped found the country’s first corporate challenge in Boston, the Women’s Leadership Institute in Utah has built its programming around partnering with men in business to advance women. In its first year, ElevateHER has tripled its participation rates and is only gaining in popularity among Utah brands.
“We can’t do it without male CEOs buying into this,” Myers said. “It isn’t just a nice thing to do. Having leadership that succeeds makes us all more profitable.”
For more information, visit wliut.com.
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