Breakthroughs, Careers, Challenges, Kathy Caprino, Women in Business, Women in Leadership Do America’s Employers Really Care about Women’s Issues? Written by: Kathy Caprino

Last Thursday, I had a wonderfully powerful meeting with three inspiring colleagues who are authors affiliated with the publisher of my book Breakdown Breakthrough Berrett-Koehler Publishers.  Each of these folks has a breadth of knowledge and diversity of experience that boggles the mind – they are exciting to be with, and fascinating to learn from.  They are Larry Ackerman of The Identity Circle, Jesse Stoner of The Seapoint Center, and Katherine Armstrong. (Thanks, my friends, for a deeply enlivening gathering!)  I highly recommend following their work – you’ll be glad you did.

Based on what happened in our gathering, I’m reminded once again of the immense power of groups, and the transformative effect of open-hearted, authentic connection and collaboration. 

One question we explored a bit that is near and dear to my heart was this – Do American employers really care about women’s issues in the workplace, or about advancing women into the ranks of corporate leadership?  

I’m saddened to say that based on my work with thousands of women nationwide from hundreds of organizations around the country, I’m not at all convinced that a critical mass of U.S. employers care about advancing women to the senior ranks, or are ready to commit hard dollars to it – not yet.   Data speaks, and today, women represent only 15% of the leadership in U.S. corporations.

In other countries (Norway, for instance), there are official, stated mandates and goals for the number of women who are to be supported to advance to leadership within corporations.  As far as I know, no such stated goals or mandates exist today in the U.S. Further, the U.S. ranks 72nd in the world, in terms of the percentage of women leaders elected to a national governing body, behind Cuba and China.   How can this be? And why is it?

The word on the street in my consulting and coaching circles is that “women’s issues don’t pay,” and “women’s empowerment efforts just don’t get traction.”  I believe this has indeed been true here in the US during the past years, and I want to get to the bottom of this notable lack of a sanctioned commitment to advancing women in corporate leadership. 

What do you think are the real reasons behind this?

From the qualitative research I’ve conducted, there are numerous possible explanations, including:

1)      Those of us who care about this cause haven’t made a compelling enough fact-based argument to government or to American corporate leadership that advancing women is a MUST HAVE for the success of American business.


2)      We HAVE made a compelling argument with irrefutable data, research, and statistics, but the underlying “white male competitive career model” in place in corporate America remains intractable.


3)      As with most things in life, if we’re not forced to change (by an outside intervention, event or mandate), we won’t shift, even if we know we’re currently not on the right track.

I’m on a mission to address all of these issues, and to support a breakthrough movement for corporate women.   For instance, I’m in the process of co-developing a new software assessment tool (based on my yearlong research and book Breakdown Breakthrough) that will help professional women explore their efficacy, productivity and engagement in their current job and workplace.  It aims to uncover too the risk level of women in all ranks of experiencing at least one of the 12 common yet “hidden” crises working women face today.  Where risk is widespread, we’ll provide follow-up support and training to help women overcome these crises. 

Secondly, I’m focused on the development of new leadership training models and consulting programs that will help both men and women in corporate America deconstruct the outmoded “ male competitive career model” that many workplaces still support, and build a new, inclusive model that honors and nurtures diversity. 

I simply refuse to give up.  For me, this outcome – of ushering women into the ranks of corporate leadership in greater and greater numbers each year — is a MUST have for American business.  Supporting a full-out breakthrough movement for women in America is where it’s at for me. 

So, what about you?  Do you think America truly cares about women’s issues as they relate to the workforce? Are you seeing evidence that corporations across the country are taking up the charge to help women grow in their leadership and management roles – and committing time, energy, and resources to this in an outward, measurable manner?  Are they walking the talk, or simply giving lip-service?

Please share your candid views and experience.   Tell me where I’m wrong – show me proof that corporate America does care in a big and widespread way about advancing women.  Show me where it’s working.  And tell me – What do you think we need to do today to make measurable strides in advancing a critical mass of women into corporate leadership.

Thank you for your input!

5 thoughts on “Do America’s Employers Really Care about Women’s Issues?”

  1. How about this – we all start to care LESS about these issues and simply focus on bring the best workers that we can possibly be?

    I suggest this radical plan for two reasons:

    1) Whatever it is we’re doing now (and have been doing since the dawn of the feminist movement), it’s not working.

    2) The most successful ceiling-shatterers I know pay no heed to the male-female issues. They simply go about being great professionals.

    Thanks, Kathy, for asking a great and thought-provoking question! The MSNBC career columnist wrote something about the Norway initiatives a few months ago that also sparked some interesting discussion – I’ll have to dig out a link for you.

  2. Thanks, Viviana. Appreciate your input very much!

    Here’s my two cents: I’ve found that doing nothing to address the existing male competitive career model keeps women out of the higher ranks of leadership, and it won’t and can’t change just by focusing on being great. Performance isn’t enough. The model doesn’t fit a vast majority of women, so it’s not a matter of performance or contribution, but a matter of our needing to changing the parameters of the model for women to join the ranks of leadership at 40 to 50% levels.

    Please keep your thoughts coming! Adds to great conversation. Thanks!

  3. Kathy-
    I think that we need to continue to create awareness of the gap and then make sure we integrate, not segregate ourselves and our efforts. We need to make sure we aren’t creating a special interest group, but rather claiming our seats at the table.

    Thanks for continuing to shine a light on this important issue.

  4. Kathy-
    I think that we need to continue to create awareness of the gap and then make sure we integrate, not segregate ourselves and our efforts. We need to make sure we aren’t creating a special interest group, but rather claiming our seats at the table.

    Thanks for continuing to shine a light on this important issue.

  5. Thanks, Carol! Great advice. It’s critical to shine light on this problem and all of its many implications, yet avoid alienating women through segregation. I’d love to hear more about your thoughts on specific strategies for women to claim their seats at the leadership table without being considered (or labeled) a special interest group who needs special treatment. Thanks very much for your ideas and insights.

Comments are closed.