Women in Leadership: Why it Matters

Ms. Maitland took Wakefield students to the Ike North building in Old Town. She said,

Photo found @WHS_MaitlandRTG

Ms. Maitland took Wakefield students to the Ike North building in Old Town. She said, “hands on learning of architecture & construction mgmt…such an insightful opportunity by @HordCoplanMacht.” AND you, Ms. Maitland! Thank you!

As of 2018, the Pew Research Center indicates that only 4.8% of Fortune 500 CEOs, 18% of U.S governors, and 30.1% of University presidents are women. These startling figures reveal a reality that is not only troublesome, but widespread across many professional fields. Education, government, and business are only some of the careers in which women are disproportionately underrepresented in leadership positions.

While this might seem unsettling, statistics show that the number of women who are taking on positions of leadership within the workforce is steadily increasing, resulting in a myriad of positive effects, one of which is the impact it has on other women. One of the many positive effects of this trend is that it is paving the way for other young girls to feel inspired to follow in their footsteps.

In a survey among high school seniors, college students, and college graduates, the results show that 75.6% of women feel that having a positive female role model in a position of leadership in their intended career field inspired them to pursue this profession. Respondents of this survey reported feeling inspired by historical figures such as Margaret Thatcher (the first female Prime Minister of the U.K.), Rachel Carson (an author and leader of the environmental movement), Madeleine Albright (the first female U.S Secretary of State), and Nancy Abu-Bonsrah (the first black woman to be accepted to train as a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine).

The majority of respondents answered they were inspired by female leaders within their communities; women like Wendy Maitland (Wakefield’s Gifted Services coordinator and a community mentor), Constance Walsh (The Principal, and faculty member, at BalletNOVA), along with their own family members. This shows that the vast majority of respondents are influenced more so by their local female leaders. 

The rise of a more representative leadership in the overall workforce, and therefore more positive female role models, is providing young girls with an unprecedented number of people to look up to. As explained by renowned psychologist Dr. Shelley Taylor, “if I believe getting an A (instead of a B or a C) in a course is a real possibility, I am more likely to put in a greater effort, and in so doing I am likely to get a better grade than if I did not assume doing well in the course was possible for me.” Anyone believes if others before them could “make it,” they can, too.

Truly, women stand on the shoulders of our foremothers.