Today’s blog post is from Communities In Schools Human Resources Coordinator Jessica Adams.
As March marks the celebration of Women’s History Month, we take the time to honor women in history who have managed to blaze an individual trail of leadership, change and innovation. Women such as Susan B. Anthony or Harriet Tubman are just a couple who come to mind. As I take time to think of why these pioneers are so noteworthy, I consider the path they may have taken that led them to go down in history … and I wonder: Did these history-makers always recognize their potential? What women of today will be remembered tomorrow?
As the Human Resources Coordinator at the Communities In Schools national office, I encounter leaders every day who work toward the common goal of creating future female leaders by surrounding students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. However, I am troubled by reports suggesting women are less likely to unlock their leadership potential than their male counterparts. The White House Project, a national organization working to advance women’s leadership, found in a recent benchmark report that while 73 percent of nonprofit workers are women, men still hold more leadership positions and make higher salaries in the sector. Perhaps this gap is caused by the theory that women either don’t perceive their talents to be at the same level as men in the workplace, or are just less inclined to assert their talents to others. Studies, such as the Adecco 2011 Workplace Outlook Study, have found that more men directly ask and expect a promotion more often than their female peers.
Clearly, something has to change with the way women see themselves before we can see a change in the role woman play in the workplace. The good news? We can all do our part now to help empower the women around us to take personal responsibility and exhibit leadership within their schools, communities and social circles.
One of the Communities In Schools Five Basics calls for the chance to give back to peers and community. What does this look like for you? I’m sure many of us have a friend, a mentee, staff person or other female associate who has an opportunity to be affected by our personal contribution to their development. The best leaders take advantage of opportunities to engage in professional development opportunities – not only for themselves – but for those around them. Hillary Clinton summed it up during her address at last week’s Women in the World Summit, when she stated: “Women with help from their friends can make a difference.”
We must first find our voice, and then take the initiative to strengthen it in order to use it effectively. If there are fewer women at the head of the table, it’s important that women find their presence at the senior level, and convey that presence with conviction in meetings or conversations with their colleagues. As the celebration of Women’s History Month comes to a close at the end of this month, it is critical we note that progress is an ongoing process. It’s what we think of ourselves and how we use that power with those around us that will determine tomorrow’s triumphs. You never know; someday your name might be in the books right next to Harriet’s or Susan’s.