Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Women’s College hosts local White House Project panel

The Women’s College at the University of Denver was the first stop in a nationwide tour to present comprehensive details of “The White House Project Report: Benchmarking Women’s Leadership.”

The report released in late 2009, looked at the status of women’s leadership across 10 American sectors, from business and politics to media and military.

Results were shared and discussed during a Jan. 26 panel presentation at DU that included Marie Wilson, founder and president of the White House Project; Rev. Bonita Bock, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America; Bertha Lynn, KMGH news anchor; Lucy Sanders, CEO and co-founder of the National Center for Women and Information Technology; and Lynn Gangone, dean of the Women’s College (TWC).

“Amidst the upheaval in our economic, political, and cultural spheres, we stand to benefit in the long run if we are creative and committed to utilizing all of our nation’s resources — women and men alike — to lead together,” Wilson says. “It is our hope that this report will help to advance that goal, and contribute to building a stronger economy, better institutions, and a more representative democracy for us all.”

Wilson says one of the most important findings from the report is the disproportionately few women in leadership positions.

“When it comes to leadership, women only account for 18 percent of leaders across the spectrum — with numbers much lower among women of color,” she says.

In higher education, Gangone says, women make up the majority of undergraduate students at American colleges and universities. Higher education also beats the average when it comes to women in leadership positions — about 23 percent. According to the White House Project report, this is up from only 9.5 percent two decades ago. However, the number of female college presidents has remained virtually the same for the past decade. And, the report notes, as the degree-level awarded by the institution rises, women’s representation at the top declines. Women today account for 29 percent of presidents at two-year colleges, compared with 14 percent at universities that grant doctoral degrees, the report says.

“It is our goal at the Women’s College to prepare women as leaders who are ready to lead,” Gangone says. She notes that TWC offers classes and certificate programs designed to help women advance in their careers and in their communities. In 2011, TWC will host a leadership program for undergraduate women interested in policy and political leadership, in partnership with the Center for American Women and Politics.

TWC student Tamara Plantinga is also a parent who works three jobs to make ends meet. She says the report gives her as much hope as dismay.

“Women have challenges they are up against, particularly in leadership positions,” Plantinga says. She adds that acknowledging the issues allows women and men to come together to work on solutions.

The White House Project is a national, nonpartisan organization which works to advance a critical mass of diverse women into leadership. The organization has trained more than 9,000 women nationwide through their “Vote, Run, Lead” program.

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