Perhaps nowhere is the stalled gender revolution more apparent than in the executive and leadership ranks of business, government and education. For the past thirty years, women have surpassed their male peers in earning undergraduate degrees, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. “Yet women are vastly underrepresented in all sectors of our society, accounting for only about 17 percent of top leadership roles,” notes Shelley Correll, Director, Clayman Institute and Professor, Department of Sociology at Stanford University. “We’re ignoring the potential contribution of almost half the population.” The absence of women in leadership roles imposes a huge cost on society and severely hampers our efforts to resolve the challenges facing the world today.
Following on their traditions of excellence and innovation, Stanford University and the Clayman Institute are taking steps to help correct that imbalance. May 21 marks the official launch of the Clayman Institute’s Center for the Advancement of Women’s Leadership. With support from Stanford’s President, John Hennessy, and working in close cooperation with business and academic leaders, the Center will bring together cutting-edge research and real-world practice to help promote women’s representation in leadership positions in business, government, and higher education.
“We believe prosperity and innovation require the full participation of both men and women,” says Correll, who will head the new Center. “Our initial goal is to increase women’s representation in top leadership positions to at least 30 percent. Only when women’s voices are more fully included in the important decisions facing our companies, our governments and our universities will we be able to bring new perspectives on how to address the world’s issues and challenges.”
The Center has laid out a clear strategy for accomplishing its goals. First, three target areas for change have been identified:
Second, the Center will bridge the gap between academic scholarship and workplace practices by partnering with top companies and policy makers to design and carry out research on how to create more inclusive workplaces. “The Clayman Institute has an outstanding track record of translating robust academic knowledge into innovative, easy-to-implement programming,” explains Correll. “By combining research with business and industry participation, we can help other institutions learn from, contribute to, and partner with our efforts. We can also leverage research to help understand these programs, measure their impact, and scale them to meet specific needs.”
“In order to create large-scale change,” adds Lori Nishiura Mackenzie, Executive Director of the Clayman Institute and Center, “We need to develop workable solutions that can be disseminated broadly. True change will require that we engage and empower men and women across the spectrum of our society.”
Finally, the Center will take a three-pronged approach to translating its findings into action:
“We’re extremely excited—and proud!—to have Stanford and President Hennessy supporting us,” Correll says. “And we’re actively signing up corporate partners who share our vision and goals and who will continue to expand the work of the Center.”
The Center’s Corporate Partners Program brings together leaders who are advancing women’s leadership in their own organizations. It will provide a forum for members to exchange experiences and ideas as well as look at ways to combine leading-edge research with real-world insights. As of the Center’s launch, participating organizations include Adobe Systems, American Express, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc., Cisco Systems, Inc., Deloitte LLP, eBay Inc., Genentech Inc., Google, Intel Corporation, Morrison & Foerster LLP, NetApp, State Street Corporation, and VMware, Inc.
The efforts of the Center will go far beyond benefitting women to impacting society at large and helping to foster an environment of equality where leadership reflects the views of all.
In its inaugural event on May 21, the Center is leveraging its relationship with one of its corporate partners, Deloitte, to present compelling research on a new paradigm for inclusion in the workplace. The event brings together Kenji Yoshino, NYU Law Professor and author of Covering: The Hidden Assault on our Civil Rights, and Christie Smith, National Managing Principal, Deloitte University Leadership Center for Inclusion, who will introduce a new way to speak about inclusion that moves beyond programs and initiatives to help all individuals find common ground.
This new model of inclusion aligns well with the goals of the Center to combine research with industry practice to empower the voices of women and thereby help translate their accomplishments into leadership roles.
In his annual State of the Union address this year, President Barack Obama urged Congress, the White House and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street to come together “to give every woman the opportunity she deserves.” “I believe,” he said, “when women succeed, America succeeds.” His words echo perfectly the vision of the Clayman Institute’s new Center for the Advancement of Women’s Leadership.