By Rebecca Keister
PBN Staff Writer
WARWICK – Rhode Island businesses lack in promoting women leadership within both the private and nonprofit sectors despite strong evidence that shared gender management leads to greater economic stability, according to a report by Vision2020, a national initiative to promote female equality, released Tuesday.
“It’s all about the conversations and giving best practices to folks. It’s about leading folks to resources that will help them engage in [those] best practices and continuing to measure how we move forward in the years to come,” Marcia Cone, CEO of the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, said in prepared remarks. “What we know is that the commitment to gender diversity has to come from the top.”
Cone and Susan Colantuono, CEO and founder of Leading Women, are the Rhode Island delegates to Vision2020, which was developed by the Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership at Drexel University College of Medicine.
Cone and Colantuono have committed to increasing the numbers of companies using wage-equity audits, ensuring wage equity and ensuring equity in the awarding of loans to women business owners who apply for them.
The report, 2020 Vision for Rhode Island: Women, Leadership & Wages, released at a breakfast panel at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick, surveyed human resources professionals of non- and for-profit companies among the largest employers in the state. Twenty-two businesses responded.
The report found that none of the responding companies had goals for women’s advancement and that while 57 percent of for-profit businesses and 23 percent of nonprofit said there were no obstacles to women’s advancement that women remain underrepresented in leadership.
“I’m not saying that one [gender] skill set is better or more necessary [but] I think women provide part of the checks and balances we need when we make decisions,” Cone said. “If CEOs are not committed to [female advancement] then it does not permeate the culture of the organization.”
The report also found that 46 percent of for profit companies and 37 percent of nonprofits require a diverse slate of candidates for board positions and that of the challenges there are in promoting females to leadership, promoting from within, keeping a senior management team focused, and lack of openings were among top concerns.
The report recommends that companies counteract obstacles by setting targets, developing recruitment programs for K-12 students, developing mentoring programs and offering on-the-job training with special projects.