Who is a Leader?
Have you ever wondered if you were born too early? It would be dishonest to tell you I didn’t have this feeling after reading each story of the women entering the ranks of professional men’s sports in ways never thought possible even a decade ago.
A space simply off limits to me and countless other young women with a passion for sports and an inability to explain why.
The message had many layers. Women aren’t good, intelligent or talented enough to coach and lead men. Leadership positions which come with influence, power, high compensation and a platform to change the conversation are reserved for men.
Sound familiar? Though the 2016 presidential race offers the greatest opportunity in my lifetime for a woman to be elected to the highest office, women continue to lag behind men in the opportunities afforded them in the highly sought after leadership positions in business, politics and government and athletics, to name a few.
According to a recent “Atlantic Magazine” article[i] women hold fewer than five percent of Fortune 500 leadership positions and only 19 percent of Congressional seats are held by women.
Perceptions of whom and what a leader is play a significant role in the speed at which progress is made.
Congratulations to Becky Hammon, Jen Welter, Nancy Lieberman and NFL official Sarah Thomas. Being a pioneer comes with its own fishbowl and its own pressures, but I’m confident each is up to the task.
That initial feeling I shared at the beginning of this article quickly turned to pride and I am hopeful of even more artificial barriers falling away. #GirlsCanToo.
So what is the outcome? What does this ultimately mean for girls and young women growing up in the U.S. and around the world looking for their place in work and how they may contribute?
The sheer number of opportunities open and available to women is one measurement. But, that alone won’t be the outcome which I feel is the most important one of the day.
So what is? Modeling. No, not that modeling.
Modeling for girls and young women how a leader may be female. Female in all the ways she is similar and dissimilar from men. How she carries herself; how she talks, coaches, leads, governs and performs.
As our girls and young women come to understand and embrace that they too can become leaders, due in part to the modeling of those who came before them and who share their story, geography, ethnicity, skin color and gender, the outcome will be historic, measurable and celebrated.