DUDLEY, Mass.—The Institute for Women’s Leadership (IWL) at Nichols College has released the second edition of its Massachusetts Women’s Leadership Index (MWLI), a biennial report that assesses the representation of women in leadership roles across multiple sectors in the Commonwealth. The report indicates that while progress is being made, it’s happening at a slow pace.
The MWLI—whose research was conducted and compiled by Professor Jean Beaupré, faculty director of the IWL; and intern Alexandra Vojtila, a senior—gives Massachusetts a letter grade based on the percentage of women in positions of power as compared to the rest of the United States.
And which grade does one of the most progressive states in the nation get? “F,” or a 39—albeit three points higher than the score it received in the 2015 index.
“With this, our second release of the MWLI, we are able to begin tracking progress over time, and the results are again mixed,” said Professor Beaupré. “Although in some places we are able to see progress, in the aggregate the movement is slow. Our calculation results in a score of 39 out of 100. There is, however, reason for optimism. In addition to pockets of improvement, there has been an increased focus on the issues related to women and leadership in academia, the media, and private and public sectors.”
According to the Index, women represent 51 percent of the U.S. population yet only 20 percent make up the U.S. Congress; 5.3 percent are CEOs of S&P 500 companies; 18.6 percent hold corporate board seats; and they experience a wage gap of 17 percent (for every dollar a man earns, a woman earns 83 cents). The Index also notes that at the current rate of change, women won’t reach parity in corporate board seats or wages for nearly four decades, and it could be more than a century before women have equal representation in U.S. Congress.
“It is discouraging that corporate leadership and nonprofit leadership indicators are down, albeit slightly,” said Nichols College President Susan West Engelkemeyer, Ph.D. “We collectively have much work to do.
“Organizations in Massachusetts and across the nation are leading the way with programs and policies that enable and promote leadership in their female employees,” she said. “Boston’s city-wide commitment to offering free salary negotiation workshops for women, and the pay equity bill which passed unanimously by both legislative branches in the Commonwealth, will hopefully lead to better results for the MWLI. Diversity in the workplace is a distinctly identified competitive advantage. Progress has been made, but it is my hope that we will see the MWLI increase significantly over time. We stand ready at Nichols College to do our part as we prepare the leaders of tomorrow.”
Although anti-discrimination laws are in place, many barriers still exist for women, according to the study, chief among them being implicit bias, or behaviors driven by subconscious attitudes and stereotypes. Another factor is the pipeline to leadership, and women’s ambitions to ascend.
“One reason may be the reputational price that women pay when expressing their ambitions,” the study states.
The MWLI—which was released at the beginning of Women’s History Month, observed in March—offers suggestions to ensure that progress for women doesn’t stall: raising awareness, implementing programs that educate both men and women, and providing development opportunities.
“As part of the educational experience at Nichols College, we have implemented programs, workshops, and courses designed to both educate our students on the relevant issues, and develop the leadership skills they will need to make a difference in their workplaces and communities,” said Professor Beaupré. “Witnessing the talent, determination, and hard work of our students, I can report that the future is bright.”
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