Jillian Lee, Vice President of Human Resources
Confession: Vulnerability does not come easily to me.
As a perfectionist who has fooled herself into believing that all outcomes can be controlled through proactive structure and discipline, opening myself up to risk, and thereby potentially failure – and most certainly change – is enough to send me running for the hills (or it would if we had any in Chicago). As the wise philosopher Jon Bon Jovi once said, “I like progress, but I hate change.” It’s challenging to admit this, but bold moments are not natural for me; I usually only get through them with careful, deliberate planning and humor.
Perhaps this makes me an unlikely champion of International Women’s Day and the 2018 campaign to #PressForProgress. I’d like to think it actually makes me an ideal candidate for this role; pledging my support of and commitment to challenging bias and inequality, forging women’s advancement, celebrating women’s achievement, and championing women’s education are so important that this is boldness from which even I cannot hide. I may joke to ease my own anxiety but never to diminish the seriousness of these issues.
Gender inequality plays out in every aspect of life – professional, health and well-being, socioeconomic, education.
- 4.8% of the S&P 500 Companies’ CEOs are women.
- Women are underrepresented at every level in the corporate pipeline – and it compounds the higher up you go (only an average of 21% of incumbents at the SVP level and above are women, compared to 46% in entry level roles).
- The disparity in the leadership pipeline starts right out of the gate, with 100 women promoted to manager for every 130 men.
- Of incumbents in “line roles” with operational/P&L responsibility, only 20% of them are women.
- In 2015, 90% of new CEOs were promoted from line roles and 100% of them were men.
- Although nearly impossible to find overall statistics, a 2014 report by the Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA studied the trend of excluding women from medical research and clinical trials. As a point of reference, although cardiovascular disease is the #1 killer of women and impacts each gender differently with unique symptoms, only 1/3 of research subjects are female.
- An average of 22% of governments globally are composed of women, even though we make up 49.6% of the world’s population.
- On average, women earn 77% of what their male counterparts make for the same work.
- African American women earn $0.64 and Hispanic women earn $0.56 for every dollar a Caucasian male makes.
- 30% of women have been the victims of violence through either sexual assault or domestic abuse.
- There are 781 million illiterate people worldwide – and 2/3 of them are women.
- An estimated 65 million girls of school age across the globe are not enrolled in any type of educational program.
- Women in senior management are seven times more likely than men at the same level to do more than half of the housework and provide primary childcare, which equates to an additional 1 to 3 hours per day.
These numbers are staggering, the magnitude of the scope they cover overwhelming. I’ve spent much of my adult life wondering how I could possibly make a difference. I am one small voice in a sea of voices, talking about issues that have traversed many millennia. What impact could I possibly have?
When I was a teenager, my mother gave me the best advice I’ve ever received, and it has become the methodology I apply to every challenge and opportunity I face. When I was feeling paralyzed by the enormity of something, she told me to close my eyes, take a deep breath, and then said, “Tell me the first step you will take in solving this problem.” After the first step, we discussed the second, then the third, then… You get the point. At the end of what essentially became a project plan for tackling that particular problem, I opened my eyes, smiling through incredible relief. “Now,” she gently commanded, “Take the first step.”
This is the first bold step.