Forum Explores Leadership Challenges for Women in Business

Nov 29, 2012

  Only 18 percent of leadership positions in business are held by women. That statistic and other gender gap issues were explored Wednesday when the Rockland Business Association Women’s Forum hosted a special presentation by National Council for Research on Women Chairwoman Lucie Lapovsky.

Lapovsky, who specializes in the study of gender in business and has done work with the White House on enhancing leadership opportunities for women, presented statistics and trends on the presence of women in leadership positions and the means by which they can expand such opportunities for themselves and others.

Lapovsky reached beyond issues of equal rights, framing her work as not only a way to aid businesswomen, but a way to enhance organizations diversity and new approaches to common obstacles.

“I think we bring different perspectives and would have seen other ways of handling crises and solving some serious problems,” Lapovsky said.

Among the biggest issues were gender gaps in leadership positions, advanced degrees, and wages, with women making progress in each category, but remaining behind men, with only 18 percent of all leadership positions being held by women.

According to Lapovsky, different professional areas are subject to distinct trends. Overall, women made the biggest gains in academia and the smallest gains in the military, but faced bottlenecks at certain levels of advancement, especially in higher education.

Lapovsky also explained the importance of equality in matters of business, pointing out that diversity often enhances returns and broadens the knowledge and experience of a business overall.

As a solution to what she stated was a slow process of change, Lapovsky argued for the importance of public policy in producing diversity.

“There are no major social changes that have happened without legislation, when you think about it,” Lapovsky said. “Having watched it now for 30 or 40, I don’t think it’s just going to happen naturally.”

Proposed solutions to promoting equity in hiring and promotion included the strategic use of money and resources to aid women, the use of gender as a factor in business decisions, enhancing women’s voices in the public arena, expansion of data gathering and analysis to provide up-to-date figures, set benchmarks for success, and set specific targets to chart women’s progress.

In addition to local business leaders, State Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee made an appearance, stating that she intended to use what she learned in her continued work as chairwoman of the New York State Assembly Task Force on Women’s Issues.

Jaffee pointed out that attitudes in Albany were growing more progressive and bipartisan. This trend is especially visible in the Assembly, as reflected by her task force’s recent accomplishments, including legislation aiming to provide HIV treatment to sexual assault survivors and to supply more information on breast cancer to women with dense breast tissue.