As we mark International Day of the Girl this week, I’m reminded of my dreams as a girl and I am proud to have the opportunity in my current role to help lift up girls and women in male-dominated fields such as transportation. We are making progress, but the road ahead is still tough for women who want to lead in business and government.
According to the Pew Research Center, the majority of Americans believe men and women are equally capable of leading in politics and business, however the percentages of women leaders in these fields are low. Only 4.8 percent of Fortune 500 Company CEOs are women, and just 19.3% are female members of the House of Representatives. For minority women, the gap is even larger. According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, only seven percent of the total members of Congress are women of color. When Ursula Burns stepped down as CEO of Xerox Corp. last year, it brought the number of African American women heading Fortune 500 companies to zero.
Yet, studies show that companies and organizations with female leadership and more diversity perform better. This makes sense because I’ve seen firsthand how diverse perspectives help us to identify innovative solutions to problems that affect everyone.
To help more women and minorities advance in leadership, we need to elevate and expand this discussion. Last week, I had the pleasure of joining other women leaders to share career experiences to help women advance in male-dominated fields. The event was organized by the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia and titled: Breaking the Mold, Advancing Women in Leadership. The panelists included Angela G. Mago, executive vice president, co-head of Corporate Bank for KeyCorp & head of KeyBank Real Estate Capital KeyCorp; Robin L. Wiessmann, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Banking and Securities; and Eloise Young, senior vice president of strategic planning & information services for Philadelphia Gas Works.
During the event, we discussed how important it is for leaders to institute best practices that encourage diversity in the workplace and allow for more flexibility to help both men and women balance their personal and professional lives. At PennDOT, we’re committed to increasing diversity through our hiring process. It makes for a stronger organization.
As my colleague Secretary Wiessmann said, “I believe that we have reached the stage where the success of women in business now means the same as the success of business in general.”
October also marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month. During my remarks, I mentioned how one in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer. The speakers and audience members joined me in wearing pink hard hats, which helped to raise additional awareness on social media, and also offered us the chance to connect with people to discuss ways to improve our communities for the better.
To listen to KYW1060’s coverage of the event, visit