I spend a lot of time in the company of powerful women. As a small business advocate, an entrepreneur, a journalist and the leader of a nonprofit, I attend so many conferences and events every year that I have an enormous collection of name badges hanging in my office, which makes my friends laugh.
So the women we’ve profiled in this month’s issue featuring our i4 Business Women’s Inspired Leadership Awards are especially inspiring to me. Reading the nominations we received for our nine honorees and 42 other women
They also represent where we’re headed on a global scale. That’s because as a society, we haven’t yet achieved gender parity, but women and men around the world are working toward that goal. It’s important to showcase those who are helping us get there.
A 2018 study by think tank the Pew Research Center shows 59 percent of respondents believe there aren’t enough women in top executive business positions and high political offices — including 48 percent of men and more than 69 percent of women.
The 2018 Fortune 500 list included only 24 women CEOs — a number that had actually decreased from a record-breaking 32 in 2017. The 116th U.S. Congress represents the largest jump in women members since the 1990s, although the 106 of 441 members make up only 24 percent of the total.
What’s preventing women from reaching that level playing field? Some say we could be holding ourselves back. A recent Forbes article outlined the 15 biggest challenges women leaders face and what we have to do better to overcome them.
Some of those challenges have to do with how we think: being confident, dealing with negative thoughts, tackling imposter syndrome and trusting our own voice. Some have to do with how we act: speaking up, standing in our success and overcoming perfectionism. Others have to do with how we interact with people: building a sisterhood, building alliances with decision-makers, generating revenue, asking for money and shifting our word choice. And others have to do with how we adapt to external forces: being treated equally, becoming a member of the C-suite and re-entering the paid workforce after caring for children or aging parents.
Several of my friends like to quote the theory that women read the qualifications for a job — or public office or a volunteer position — and if they are missing two or three out of 10, they figure they’re not qualified and they don’t bother to apply. Men have a different mindset. If they have two or three of the qualifications, they figure they can learn the rest as they go, and they put their hats in the ring.
Women can learn a lot from our male counterparts. I know I do every day. I can’t thank my male friends and mentors enough for their perspective and their support. It’s fun and always enlightening to discover how our differences combine to create something stronger.
For now, I will continue to champion women I believe are ready for equal pay, C-suite positions and elected office. I will continue to do what I can to make a difference in my own sphere of influence. And I will continue to spend time in the company of powerful women — and powerful men. Eventually we will all get there together.