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Gender parity

Inspiring women to lead confidently

Our Women @ Thomson Reuters Business Resource Group in Minnesota hosted its fourth annual Aspire to Lead conference earlier in November, gathering 500 professionals to discuss ways to empower women to lead with confidence.

Confidence. Point to a successful leader, and you’ll find someone who exudes self-assurance. And yet, studies show women take much longer to develop their sense of confidence than men.

The Harvard Business Review conducted a study earlier this year, which demonstrated that women start their careers with nearly 30% less confidence than men, and we take until about age 40 to catch up.

At the Aspire to Lead conference we aimed to change this trend.

The 500 men and women from across Minnesota and neighboring states gathered at Aspire to focus on closing the gender gap. These attendees – who ranged from college seniors just embarking on their careers to high-level leaders in major corporations – spent the day discussing ways to empower women to lead with confidence.

While the day started somberly following the defeat of America’s first female major-party nominee for president, the mood quickly shifted. We began with Marcia Page, the co-founder of a global investment firm, speaking about how she built her career in a male-dominated industry. Talk about a powerful example for women!

Next Melinda Shiek, Human Capital Director at Optum, shared practical ideas for building influence. She highlighted the importance of women’s willingness to jump into what we may consider “office politics” without fear.

And then came Matt Wallaert.

Matt is a behavioral scientist who has led multiple initiatives focused on closing the gender gap in America. Matt’s candid, no-holds-barred approach to the topic was exactly what many of us needed on the day after the 2016 presidential election. He shared ideas on how each attendee can influence the pressures keeping women from attaining the highest levels of leadership. With a healthy dose of humor, he highlighted the existing problems while offering real solutions to help women achieve equal pay for equal work, and to encourage women to step forward into leadership roles.

The afternoon sessions featured a GOOD Guys panel discussing equality in business, and how men can and do support this approach. There are many men who recognize the need for gender equality, who understand the business imperative of diverse teams, and who actively work to support women in their organizations.

And last, but certainly not least, Christie Smith from Deloitte highlighted the importance of bringing our authentic selves to the workplace. To lead with confidence does not require leading with masculinity. We can be feminine and strong; female and confident.

To all of the people who spent the day at Aspire to Lead focusing on empowering women, I say thank you. Thank you for coming together as a supportive community. Thank you for recognizing the need to support women in the workplace.

My sincere hope is that the conversation does not end now. While Aspire to Lead takes place on one day each year in Minnesota, the work to support women takes place every day at every workplace. Thank you for the work you will continue to do in pursuit of gender equality.


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