Jamie Boersma is the CEO of Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa
Even though it’s been 32 years since the first woman was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, 93 years since women were given the right to vote and more than 160 years since the beginning of the women’s rights movement, when it comes to female leadership, the evidence is clear: We still have a lot of work to do.
There’s no denying the statistics. To date, women make up just 3.6 percent of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and only 17 percent of U.S. senators, representatives and governors. The list goes on and has essentially remained stagnant over the past 10 years. What does this tell us? The glass ceiling still exists and the journey to gender-balanced leadership is far from over.
This is something Facebook Inc. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg addresses in her book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.” Sandberg calls women out, sparking our desire to not only take a good look at ourselves, but at women’s civil rights for the first time in about 40 years.
She has arguably reignited the women’s rights movement, going so far as emphasizing the notion we, as women, hold ourselves back.
Now, that’s a compelling thought.
Today, Sandberg is one of the most influential and successful women in the world, but she says that status hasn’t come easy. She, like so many women, said she has missed out on opportunities because she needed to be liked by everyone, because she was a “people pleaser” and because she didn’t want to seem too aggressive in the workplace.
This is a trait girls develop early, which affects them as adults – and something we at Girl Scouts strive to address each and every day.
We aim to change not only the present role of women in society today, but the entire future landscape of female leadership. As we begin to re-evaluate our own means to “lean in,” we think it’s even more important to instill that same idea into today’s girls, that we teach them to lean in.
Growing up, I was fortunate to have someone in my life encouraging me to reach for my dreams. From an early age, my mom told me I could be anything I wanted to be and do anything I wanted to do. She taught me I was limitless. She was a true leader, and led by way of example, becoming the first female pharmacist in her hometown and the first woman to serve on the Iowa Board of Pharmacy.
Though I am so thankful for the lessons she taught me, we at Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa recognize that not every girl has someone in her life teaching her those lessons.
This is something we work hard to provide the nearly 14,000 girls we serve. Each and every day, we strive to help them develop the skills they need to succeed in the world today.
But we know it’s going to take more than the work of one organization to truly change the fabric of society.
We need other like-minded organizations, all mothers, fathers, teachers, politicians, business leaders and community members, to join the fight by encouraging girls to seize more opportunities, to step outside their comfort zones and to not be afraid.
It’s our job as a society to show girls they have no bounds and they can grow up to be whatever they want to become.
By encouraging girls to believe in themselves, we’re helping build a new landscape where gender-balanced leadership is the norm, one where women and men play equal roles in making decisions that change our world.
How do we begin the process? First, we must take a good look at ourselves and our current role in helping girls reach their full leadership potential.