Where Are The Ladies?

About a month ago, I had a very odd thing happen. A (male) client was called to a meeting, but couldn't make it, so he sent me in his stead. I let the organizer know that I'd be about 10 minutes late due to a prior commitment. When I walked into the room of about 60 attendees, I was shocked to find out that I was... wait for it... The. Only. Woman.

I spent the rest of the meeting distracted at best, frustrated at worst. How in the world could I be the only woman in a meeting of approximately 60 people? And, it's worth noting, I wasn't even technically invited. A man was. I asked the organizer how the attendees were selected, and the answer was legitimate and valid and had nothing to do with gender. I decided to chalk it up to a super bizarre coincidence, and carried on. Until...

...Not 24 hours later I walked into a Board meeting for a budding non-profit with which I serve and immediately realized that not only was I, again, the only woman in the room, but was, in fact, the only woman on the Board. I came home totally fixated on this issue. Poor Jason. He is a sympathetic man and good listener. He is supportive, encouraging, and thoughtful. He has good advice. He also has the patience of Job because I could not stop talking about this. If I were a chain smoker, this would have been a personal best.

So, I did the only thing I could think to do: I contacted two female colleagues whom I respect very much to share this strange sequence of events, only to find that they too have experienced this. Alarming.

Here's my disclaimer: I am fully comfortable being at a table full of men. I have never felt held back, discouraged, overlooked, or as though I'm somehow less equal based on my gender. Perhaps I'm naive, but I don't think this is what's happening. The truth is that I don't know what's happening. I just know that in 2018 it's happening. And that needs to change. 

I did a bit of research to see if there was any merit to this, or if I just happened to walk into the wrong room (twice). I analyzed private, public, and government sector leaders in the Wenatchee Valley. I included C-level management, Board members, and leadership positions in each of the three categories across sectors, longevity, and size of operation to examine the composition based only on gender. Here's what I found:

Private sector leadership: 19.2% female
Public sector leadership: 49.8% female
Government leadership: 24.7% female

This is not scientific or exhaustive. But, it is alarming and rather interesting. I'm not sure what to do, or how to do it, but I feel like this is grossly out-of-balance for 2018. Have ideas? I'm open. Think this needs to change? Let's do it. I don't know what we'll do, or how we'll do it, but I do feel compelled to do something. Perhaps it's as simple as reaching down with a helping hand to lift other women up. Perhaps it's mentorship. Perhaps it's education. Perhaps it's as simple as awareness.

But, in my (not-very-humble) opinion, we need to do something.

Jennifer Korfiatis