Opinion

Why It's So Important to Close the Female Leadership Gap

Michael Posner

By Michael Posner

These disparities are not simply women’s issues. They affect all of us.

By Michael Posner

International Women’s Day offers an opportunity to take stock of areas where women have made progress in the struggle for equality but also to examine the gaps that remain. In the United States, women have made notable gains politically, but far too many continue to struggle to gain economic equality, including at the highest levels of American business.

It has been almost a century since the effort to extend voting rights to women culminated in the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920. Once they gained the franchise, more and more women entered politics, and increasingly they are competing successfully for electoral office at both the federal and state level. In 1966, Margaret Chase Smith was the lone woman serving in the US Senate. Today, 25 senators are women, a record number. After a remarkable fall election, dubbed by some the “year of the woman,” 103 women now serve in the US House of Representatives, another record number. There has been even more progress at the state and local levels. Women now constitute 29% of the members of state legislatures across the country, a number that has quintupled since 1971. While a woman has never been elected president, five women have already tossed their hats into the ring for 2020, with others likely to follow.

By contrast, for many American women, the economic picture is less encouraging. While many more women are earning college and graduate degrees, once they graduate, many face a pattern of pervasive discrimination. It exists throughout the workforce, across industries, and in all regions of the country. From Wall Street to Silicon Valley, from Main Street offices to rust belt factories, highly trained, hardworking, and capable women continue to hit a glass ceiling. The old boy network may not be as overt as it was decades ago, but it continues to exist and to rob women of the opportunities they deserve.

Read the full Forbes article.
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Michael Posner is a Professor of Business and Society and Director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.