International Women’s Day and the Future of Women in Business

We kick off Women’s History Month this year with International Women’s Day on March 8th, an event that has been celebrated since 1911. March is appropriately regarded as Women’s History Month, with the symbolism of rebirth and the blooming flowers of spring. These occurrences are appropriately timed, as women’s rich history striving towards the right to vote, fair pay, and equality in the workplace has grown and blossomed into what it is today.

From the time of Susan B. Anthony in the late 1800s, women’s suffrage in 1920, the 1963 Equal Pay Act aimed at reducing sex-based discrimination, and Sandra Day O’Connor becoming the first female Supreme Court Justice in 1981, women have made significant strides towards equality before and since these noteworthy historical dates.

Salaries, Compensation, and Women in the Workplace

Women’s rights have come a long way, and yet in the workplace, women are still grossly unequal and severely disadvantaged. Women are disproportionately represented at the C-suite level, receive less advocacy and support from managers, and are paid 20 percent of what men are paid. The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap tells you everything you need to know about the pay gap in the United States and how the intersectionality of identities (age, race, ethnicity, education level) can make this gap more debilitating.

In a 2017 study, LeanIn points out that one in five C-suite executives is a woman, and less than one in 30 is a woman of color. They go on to highlight, “Nearly 50 percent of men think women are well represented in leadership companies where only one in ten senior leaders is a woman.” As of January 2018, only 27 of the Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs, with the number slowly dropping.

These statistics should not be viewed as a hopeless outlook, but as a recognition of our history and present in order to plan for our future.

Women in Business

Influential Women in Business

March is a great time of year to highlight some of the women leading the charge and breaking barriers in their respective fields. Each year, Fortune publishes a list of the 50 Most Powerful Women, and the 2017 list is nothing if not impressive.  

Mary Barra – In the male-dominated automotive industry, Chairwoman and CEO of General Motors Mary Barra became the first female CEO of a major global car manufacturer. She holds 15 nonprofit, corporate, and government board memberships, and in 2017 was ranked #1 in Fortune Magazine’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business list.   

Indra Nooyi – With over 6,000 connections to influential decision makers in RelSci, Indra Nooyi is a well connected and powerful leader. She is the Chairwoman and CEO of PepsiCo and a role model to young women of color. Born and raised in Chennai, India, Nooyi has worked her way through the ranks, now holding the highest position at one of the top consumer companies in the world. It’s no wonder Nooyi has landed the #2 position of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women.

Marillyn Hewson – Lockheed Martin, an aerospace and defense company with $51 billion in annual revenue, is headed by Marillyn Hewson. Hewson was recently honored with the 2017 Howard Hughes Memorial Award – an award presented to a leader who has advanced the aviation and space technology industry – and is #3 of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women.

Abigail Johnson – Since taking over from her father Edward “Ned” Johnson III as CEO in 2014, Abigail Johnson has led Fidelity Investments through a few legal challenges along with steady growth. And although her personal net worth is estimated at $14.4 billion, under her leadership, Fidelity Charitable, the first commercial donor-advised fund, has become the largest charity by donations from the public as of 2017, even overtaking the United Way.

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Resources for Women: Professional and Personal

Studies show the importance of mentorship in the workplace, and yet, with the lack of female representation in executive roles, mentors can be few and far between. As Amanda Moss-Cowan, assistant professor of management at The University of Rhode Island puts it, “There’s not a big network at the top to pull women up yet.”

In order to support women in business and in their personal lives, more and more professional organizations are being established. Organizations like American Business Women’s Association, ColorComm, Ellevate Network, and National Association of Professional Women are fantastic resources to support, connect, empower, teach, and inspire women.

In addition to these membership organizations, RelSci’s vast network of 7.5 million influential decision makers can be used for a variety of reasons, most notably prospect research, ensuring due diligence, and fundraising. But what is often overlooked is the ability to utilize RelSci to tap into your personal and professional networks to identify mentors in your field. A mentor or trusted adviser isn’t always from your company, and can be found in a variety of circles. While not catering exclusively to women, RelSci is another avenue to focus on your personal and professional development.

Women’s rights have come a long way, and we still have a long way to go. It’s crucial to remain optimistic and identify support networks to boost your development – and what better way to start than to celebrate your womanhood or the women in your life on International Women’s Day!