Today was my first session as part of the 35 under 35 Women’s Leadership program. I was excited to start and I assure you, I was not disappointed. In just one short day, I met incredible, vibrant women from so many walks of life. There were marketers, small business owners, freelancers, chiropractors, advocates, mothers, wives, soldiers and more.
Yet as I sat in the midst of these incredible women who made me proud to be among them, I was shocked as I heard about the plight of women in the working world. Did you know that:
- Women make up approximately 50% of the population, yet women have yet to consistantly hold leadership roles in any industry.
- In the corporate sector, only 16% of leaders are women.
- In the nonprofit sector, only 20% of leaders are women.
- There are only 12 female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.
So how do we rise up? How do we become leaders? For me, it started with a definition. What exactly is a leader? What does leadership mean? After all, my desire has never been to lead a company (a marketing department yes, a whole company, not so much). Can I still be a leader?
As I struggled to answer that question, United Way President Sherri Thomsen gave this definition of leadership. “Rather than define a leader as someone who leads a group, what if we define leadership as an outcome?” she said. “Lets define leadership as the power to produce a result or to have an effect. This is truly transformational leadership.”
So as the program progresses, I am taking it upon myself to decide what transformational leadership looks like for me, both personally and professionally. How can I become a more effective leader? How do my values and my talents contribute to making me the best leader I can be?
I don’t have the answer to all these questions yet. For now, I’ll leave you with a poem quoted by a 35 under 35 alum that has stuck with me. From Maya Angelou:
“It’s in the click of my heels,
the bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
the need of my care.
‘Cause I am a woman