Welcome to WWIB Week! Every fall, we take five days as a community to formally celebrate Wharton women and elevate our dialogue about gender in the workplace. This year, Wharton Women in Business (WWIB) is excited to present you with a robust lineup of programs to do exactly those two things. From guest speaker discussions of paternity leave and professional identity to small group dinners and WWIB Pub, we hope you’ll join us for one (or many!) of our events this week.
Wharton men—it would mean so much to see you engaging with us this week, whether that’s to demonstrate solidarity with Wharton women, to enhance your ability to lead both men and women, or both. And remember—though WWIB Week comes to a close with our signature conference on Friday, October 2nd, programming from WWIB and the 22s will take place every week throughout this academic year.
The “Wharton bubble” hosts powerful energy from women leaders. In a community where 42% of students are female, women shine as 43% of Venture Fellows, 45% of Club Presidents, 50% of Leadership Fellows, 54% of both Student Life Fellows and WGA Board Members, and an astounding 75% of 2017 Cluster Presidents. Women at Wharton are accomplished and ambitious leaders, and we are proud to be in community that embraces and celebrates them. Yet, there is still work to be done.
While Wharton’s statistics of female student leadership are trending positively, our broader academic and business community struggles with female representation. Just 22% of Wharton MBA faculty are female. According to Census Bureau data, there is a pervasive 22% gender wage gap that widens with age. Just 5% of Fortune 500 companies are led by women CEOs, and, according to research from Babson College, in Silicon Valley, only 2.7% of venture capital-funded startups have women CEOs.
So what does this all add up to?
We all have a stake in gender equality. As students, Wharton’s gender diversity is one of our greatest competitive advantages. Part of the school’s prestige, and, in turn, the value of our degrees, comes from ensuring that our community attracts and develops strong diverse talent. Here are a few ideas on how each of us can promote gender equality and an inclusive culture in our own community:
- Use inclusive language—and encourage professors to do the same. Too often we hear in class statements such as, “Which entrepreneur are you most like: Jake, Michael, Brian, or Charles?” or “The guys in Private Equity…”. These limitations on what leaders should look like presents barriers to a sense of inclusion in our classrooms.
- Do your research on the case for gender equality. As a data-driven school, we can all dive into and appreciate the substantial evidence that demonstrates how gender equality is good for families, communities, and business.
- Allow yourself to challenge people’s perceptions, especially when gendered comments arise. Assume the Most Respectful Interpretation (MRI), and then ask, “What did you mean by that?” Walking down the ladder of inference to get at the root of bothersome comments results in both people understanding each other’s intentions and elevating unconscious biases that may exist.
- Actively source women to speak to your clubs and in conferences, especially in underrepresented fields (e.g., finance, tech, entrepreneurship). There are inspiring women in every field, and if you cannot find female speakers to reach out to, WWIB will work with you to source ideas.
- Support women’s candidacy for clubs and job interviews where you have connections. If you are a club leader, proactively consider board diversity when making board decisions.
- Serve as a mentor to first year and undergraduate women who seek your advice.
- Ask questions. Simply inquiring how to be a more inclusive leader is often the best approach.
As future business leaders, we must recognize the business imperative of gender equality. According to a new McKinsey Global Institute report, advancing women’s equality could add $12 trillion to global growth. Individually and collectively, we can advance this growth, starting right here at Wharton.
We look forward to seeing you at WWIB Week events this week and throughout the year!
Marlin, Ashley, and Maribeth