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Securing a place for their daughters


The 2004 Nexus Index, a gender equality study undertaken by the Nexus Executive Women’s Alliance, may not be the definitive measure of women’s ability to break through the glass ceiling in Central Iowa, but it isn’t presented as such.

But it does begin to unravel a disturbing trend: Though young women represent more than 60 percent of those graduating in the top 3 percent of their Central Iowa high school classes, three decades after the women’s movement began and at a time when the managerial pipeline is filled with talented, competent women, they’re not represented commensurately in corporate boardrooms, top executive spots, peak wage-earning professions and elected leadership positions.

The study, a call for dialogue rather than an assignment of blame, asks why so many fewer women than men are found in top salary brackets and elected positions. Should schools do more to encourage girls and young women to strive for top-salary positions, or should mentors fill the gap? Are Greater Des Moines and Iowa ahead or behind the national curve in hiring and promoting women? Are men simply more competitive than women and willing to put in the extra hours that put them on the fast track to the top? In achieving work-life balance, are the sacrifices of women different than those of men? Does bias still exist, especially toward young professional women who want to have children after their employers have invested time and money in their management track? Are the numbers of women leaving their professions to become stay-at-home-moms more myth than fact, a luxury that exists only for the very affluent?

Those are questions that deserve a community – and, as important, a corporate – response.

The Nexus group’s goal is a worthy one. The women of the group, many of whom have been in the trenches fighting for gender equality for years, simply want their daughters and granddaughters to have the same opportunities as their sons and grandsons, and for parity to exist in politics, corporate boardrooms and senior management positions.

Their study, to be updated annually so progress in gender equality can be analyzed and trends can be identified, is a sound body of research that will only grow in value as the years pass.

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