Marilyn: Welcome to Weekly Wisdom, boosting Cultural Intelligence, this week on Women in the Workplace: challenges and bottom line results; Marilyn O’Hearne with Courtney Thomas, CEO of the Central Exchange and at the Westport Plexpod, kicking off the .WISTEMM Village. So Courtney tell us about some of the challenges you see for women in the workplace.

Courtney: First and foremost I think one of the largest challenges that women in the workplace face is having the same opportunities as men. We talk about wage parity, gender disparity. Those sorts of things that limit women from achieving the goals that they deserve with the same education the same talent and skills. And it’s all about raising awareness to help create change. The more we can make people aware of the problem the more people will be motivated to be a part of this solution.

Marilyn: Yes I love that. And that’s what I say about bias: how to be part of the solution. Awareness is not enough. We know when organizations have higher diversity in the boardroom and the at the executive table that they’re up to 35 percent more profitable. So there’s something in it for everybody. We’re talking about STEMM now and that’s particularly an issue in STEMM. Do you want to talk a little bit about that.

Courtney: Absolutely. So one of the most staggering statistics for me to learn when I joined Central Exchange is women make up only 24 percent of the workforce in the fields of science technology engineering math and medicine. And you take that one step further when you think of those women mid career. Half of them step away from the STEMM field. And we’d really love to understand more about why is it that way. And what can we do to solve it. How are we giving women in the workplace more support in those roles and in those fields to carry the load of a family or their volunteer interests or just the internal support network that they need to continue to grow and thrive. So our WISTEMM initiative in particular is really focused on that. And tonight we’re kicking off the WISTEMM Village where we’re trying to bring women together in a multitude of disciplines in the STEM field to talk about how we will do that how we will create that network of support in hopes to change that statistic over the years.

Marilyn: That sounds fabulous. And again that’s going to benefit everyone because when your organization has that higher diversity and women and other diverse cultural identities are welcome, then everybody benefits. And I know that Central Exchange is a big support. And this is helping women in the workplace do it from the ground up, getting together and deciding how they’re going to make an impact in this area.

Courtney: Absolutely. Some of the other areas that we are focusing on is how do we bridge the gap in terms of raising awareness of the issues that that women face. So we know that women make up less than 5 percent of the CEO roles in Fortune 500 companies. In the state of Missouri women earn 78 cents to the dollar compared to men. And those are statistics that men and women should be concerned about and men and women should be working together to create change. And that’s one of the things that we’re working hard at Central Exchange is how we engage more men at the table to help us in our mission to advance women.

Marilyn: I love that.  I did a program a few weeks ago on MeToo: What will you do? looking at some of the men’s groups and what they were doing in that regard. Sometimes people can see the disparity and see the problems and want to do something about it but they’re not sure how to have that conversation. And I did another video on how to have those conversations so that you can join together and make the impact. So any parting words for you Courtney.

Courtney: I just appreciate the bias work that you’re doing and as we think about some of those unconscious biases and the role that they play and women not getting what they deserve that’s something for us to get out to for the younger generation. So what are we doing what are the words that we’re choosing to say? Phrases like “You throw like a girl,” or “Big boys don’t cry.” This can really shape where the future goes around leadership and we as parents, we as people who care about children, we all play a role in helping to end this kind of bias.

Marilyn : Thanks, Courtney. Back to “What is it that you will do”: some CEOs have gotten together as a group and are taking a pledge to have more diversity in their organizations, had a meeting in New York and are building in accountability. In Kansas City it’s the Central Exchange, where like my Leadership, Team and Mentor Coaching, we want to see everyone reach their potential.

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Marilyn O’Hearne, MA, MCC, CQ

Unlocking Potential, Prosperity and Peace through Executive, Leadership, Team and Mentor Coaching; Coaching Supervision