Closing the Leadership Gap

The Institute for Women’s Leadership exists to address the leadership gap and to take progressive steps to narrow the breach.

Leadership by the Numbers
Center for American Progress

  • Women have outnumbered men on college campuses since 1988. They have earned at least one-third of law degrees since 1980 and accounted for one-third of medical school students by 1990. Yet, they have not moved up to positions of prominence and power in America at anywhere near the rate that should have followed.
  • In a broad range of fields, their presence in top leadership positions—as equity law partners, medical school deans, and corporate executive officers—remains stuck at 5 percent to 20 percent.
  • Overall, there is an enormous gap between the fortunes of a small number of prominent women at the very top of their fields and the vast majority of women nationwide.
  • A gulf is widening between American women and their counterparts in peer nations as well: Although the United States ranked first in women’s educational attainment on the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Index of 144 countries, it ranked 19th in women’s economic participation and opportunity and 96th in women’s political empowerment.

The Center for American Progress also makes recommendations for advancing gender equality at home and abroad by leveraging women, peace and security (WPS).

A big step was President Biden’s executive order on the establishment of a White House Gender Policy Council, of which a primary goal is:

Increasing economic security and opportunity by addressing the structural barriers to women’s
participation in the labor force and by decreasing wage and wealth gaps.

Like the Council and the Center for American Progress, UW-Green Bay’s Institute for Women’s Leadership has been established to  “develop and promote affirmative solutions to ensure that all women can participate fully in our economy and live healthy and productive lives.”


One such affirmative solution is the creation of an Advanced Certificate Program, designed to help women counteract the documented stall that can occur between middle management and executive leadership. The certificate program not only identifies concrete steps a woman can take to outbalance the factors of stalling, it enables women to create a social network across industries vital to their advancement. The program is a blend of online and in-person work, now enrolling for Fall 2021. Register by September 21. Learn more at the Institute for Women’s Leadership.


The Center for American Progress
The Center for American Progress is an independent nonpartisan policy institute that is dedicated to improving the lives of all Americans, through bold, progressive ideas, as well as strong leadership and concerted action. Our aim is not just to change the conversation, but to change the country.

Institute for Women’s Policy Research
We win economic equity for all women and eliminate barriers to their full participation in society. As a leading national think tank, we build evidence to shape policies that grow women’s power and influence, close inequality gaps, and improve the economic well-being of families.

Lessons from Female Leaders

There is a growing call for a more equal future with better representation of women as leaders.

We rally around the need to eliminate or reduce obstacles in the way of women on their paths to leadership. Yet, in a recent article in Harvard Business Review and a compelling Ted Talk, psychologist and author Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic accounts for the inequity in another way – an overabundance of incompetent men as leaders.

In fact, he advocates for more obstacles in the way of men who lack the characteristics and abilities that data has demonstrated makes for more effective leaders, which in his assessment overwhelmingly favor women.

Here are his “sexist” lessons male leaders can learn from women:

Don’t lean in when you’ve got nothing to lean in about.

Stop falling for people who lean in without the talent to back it up. Use science-based assessments to more accurately gauge attributes.

Know your own limitations. 

We live in a culture that celebrates self-belief. Although studies show women are generally less overconfident than men, their more balanced self-view means they are better able to prepare, aiding competence and performance.

Motivate through transformation. 

Women are more likely to lead with purpose than men, who tend to rely on incentive. Purpose is tied with higher levels of team engagement, performance and productivity.

Put your people ahead of yourself. 

It’s very hard to turn a group of people into a high-performing team when your main focus is yourself. Because men are generally more-self-focused than women, they are more likely to lead in a narcissistic and selfish way.

Don’t command. Empathize.

Throughout history, women have been told they are too kind and caring to be leaders, but the notion that someone who is not kind and caring is at odds with reality. In today’s workplaces, it is an imperative for leaders to establish an emotional connection with their followers.

Focus on elevating others.

Female leaders have been proven to be more likely to coach, mentor and develop their direct reports than male leaders, thus enabling them to unlock other people’s potential and promote effective cooperation on their teams.

Don’t say you’re “humbled.” Be humble.

There are well-established gender differences in humility, and they also favor women. Humility is also a trait essential to great leadership. Without humility it will be very hard for anyone in charge to acknowledge their mistakes, learn from experience, take into account other people’s perspectives, and be willing to change and be better.

Dr. Tomas calls for a larger focus on equality of talent and potential as the best gender equality intervention. The ROI of male leaders should be scrutinized as strenuously as the ROI of female leaders.


The Institute for Women’s Leadership seeks to fulfill critical needs in the region and contribute to a more robust, broadly engaged and representative professional workforce and leadership with programs like “Women Rising” Stories from Experience” and “Rising Together: Caffeinated Conversations,” along with “Sharing Knowledge” workshops from qualified business members. For more information visit the website


Harvard Business Review. “7 Leadership Lessons Men Can Learn from Women,” April 1, 2020.
TedXCambridge. “Why We Should be More Sexist.”
Ideas.Ted.Com. “6 Things we can learn from how women leaders have handled the pandemic,” September 24, 2020.

The Multiplier Effect

Woman harvesting lettuce

Women in Leadership

In our last blog post we reviewed where women stand in the quest for gender equity based on a Declaration and Platform for Action developed by the UN in 1995.

Although the global community has a long way to go, there are bright spots, where innovative women “solutionaries” are pivoting not only to cope but to “build forward better.” These women are architecting transformative futures not only in government, but also in public service, business, in the climate movement and in entrepreneurship.

  • Lina Khalifeh from Jordan took her business online training women to deal with domestic violence
  • Leah Lizarondo from the US doubled the number of volunteers helping to provide much needed free food to those in need
  • Young water engineer Christelle Kwizera from Rwanda used her WE Empower grant money to ensure local schools had running water for access to hand washing
  • Bessie Schwarz from the US is working in 20 countries with Big Data to inform grassroots women’s groups about flood prevention

Recognizing women modeling sustainable business practices and gender equity ignites awareness about their positive multiplier effect, a term developed by economists but with great relevance to cultural gender change.

Repeated exposure of women leading, thriving and change-making improves perceptions of female possibility. Stories about female role models help adolescent girls and other women aspire to leadership positions.

Essentially the success of one woman is amplified by other women and so on, precipitating cumulative change.

The fact is, countries, employers, communities and households benefit when women have greater opportunity and agency.

Our blog post “Revisiting Gender Equality” shared news from New Zealand, Germany, Finland and Taiwan, countries led by female leaders, who are part of a new movement of leaders, caring more for group welfare than individual showmanship.

Yet how can we continue to encourage the multiplier effect when the current path to leadership is often won by risk-taking, competition and negotiation, behaviors women are less likely to pursue, according to research?

Here are some ideas:

Modeling Female Leadership — Mentorship, confidence building, media training and political education are all effective tools to increase adolescent girls’ and women’s aspirations and abilities.

Negotiating Strategies for Women — Women are strong negotiators. In fact, when women negotiate on behalf of others, they exceed men’s negotiated outcomes. However, when women negotiate for themselves they often experience backlash and hesitate to negotiate as strongly. Women can learn strategies to avoid this outcome.

Reducing Ambiguity in Career Paths — Vagueness heightens the potential for gender to play a role in price and salary negotiations. Reduce ambiguity by having transparent information about what career opportunities, resources or rewards are negotiable and what the standards are for attaining them.

It is only by rising together can women, their allies and executive leadership reduce the barriers to women attaining positions of leadership.


The Institute for Women’s Leadership seeks to fulfill critical needs in the region and contribute to a robust, more broadly engaged and representative professional workforce and leadership with programs like “Women Rising” Stories from Experience” and “Rising Together: Caffeinated Conversations,” along with “Sharing Knowledge” workshops from qualified business members. On May 6 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the Intitute is hosting a Virtual Women’s Retreat, inspiring, an inspiring day of conversation, advice and shared experiences. For more information visit the website


International Leadership Association. “’Building Forward Better’ – Why Women’s Leadership Matters.” Amanda Ellis, 12 August 2020.
Harvard. “Women and Public Policy.”

Women’s Leadership – Where Do We Stand?

September 2020 marked the 25th Anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women: Action for Equality, Development and Peace. There, 189 countries committed to equal rights and opportunities for all women and girls.

In 1995, UN Women created a “Declaration and Platform for Action,” recognizing that the odds were systematically stacked against women and organized to address them.

In 25 years, how have these declarations translated to action?

It is sobering to note that not a single country has achieved full gender equality in practice in 2020. This is based on a framework of:

  • Economic participation and opportunity
  • Educational attainment
  • Health and survival
  • Political empowerment

Basic criteria. Life-defining criteria.

The top 10 countries are:

  1. Iceland
  2. Norway
  3. Finland
  4. Sweden
  5. Nicaragua
  6. New Zealand
  7. Ireland
  8. Spain
  9. Rwanda
  10. Germany

The United States is 53rd.

The goal for the 25th Anniversary was to take stock and reflect on progress. The hope was to point to groundbreaking change for gender equality. Instead, with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, even the limited gains made in the past decades are at risk of being rolled back.

From the UN Secretary-General’s Brief:

The pandemic is deepening pre-existing inequalities, exposing vulnerabilities in social, political and economic systems, which are in turn amplifying the impacts of the pandemic.

Across every sphere, from health to the economy, security to social protection, the impacts of COVID-19 are exacerbated for women and girls simply by virtue of their sex.

Yet in the face of these negative impacts, as we’ve pointed out in a previous blogpost, “Revisiting Gender Equity,” a new women’s leadership movement seems to be taking shape with a global call for “Generation Equality.”

The mantra of this movement is succinctly put by Melinda Gates, one of the most powerful women in philanthropy and praised by the UN-Secretary General as “visionary.”

This is how we emerge from the pandemic in all of its dimensions: by recognizing that women are not just victims of a broken world; the can be architects of a better one.

In our next blog posts, we will explore the ways this is being done around the world.


The Institute for Women’s Leadership was established in 2021. Located at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, the Institute provides participants the opportunity to expand transformational leadership skills, building a leadership a pipeline for Northeast Wisconsin. The Institute both embraces the Wisconsin Idea and serves the core and select missions of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in its commitment to inclusion, civic engagement, educational opportunity at all levels, and community-based partnerships. The Institute seeks to fulfill critical needs in the region and contribute to a robust, more broadly engaged and representative professional workforce and leadership. For more information visit the website 


International Leadership Association. “’Building Forward Better’ – Why Women’s Leadership Matters.” Amanda Ellis, 12 August 2020.
UN Women. Annual Report 2019-2020.
World Economic Forum. “Global Gender Gap Report 2020.” Insight Report.

Revisiting Gender Equity

A Women’s Leadership Movement?

Recent media stories about how strong female leaders are succeeding through the pandemic crisis have created a movement of reevaluating what a strong leader looks like and of taking a long, hard look at gender equity.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand has been praised for her leadership style during the pandemic. Germany, led by Angela Merkel, has had a far lower death rate than Britain, France, Italy or Spain. Finland, where Prime minister Sanna Marin, 34, governs with a coalition of four female-led parties, has had fewer than 10 percent as many deaths as nearby Sweden. And Tsai Ing-wen, the president of Taiwan, has presided over one of the most successful efforts in the world at containing the virus, using testing, contact tracing and isolation measures to control infections without a full national lockdown.

These are exceptional leaders leading in exceptional times. Still, their individual strengths have been noticed and applauded, particularly their humanity. They are more interested in increasing group welfare than individual showmanship. This talented group of female leaders has become the first visible wave of role models, encouraging an overthrow of the old, obsolete leadership archetype for a more pragmatic and meritocratic one.

Many organizations are lulled by a false sense of progress, pointing to diversity and inclusion training, focused recruitment efforts, unconscious bias training and individual development programs for women. But the fact of the matter remains.  Most workplaces were created by men and for men, creating numerous challenges for women to overcome.

Change requires leadership. A leader sets the standard for behaviors in an organization. They decide what gets endorsed, supported, overlooked and rewarded. A “policy” or “training program” can’t compensate for a leader who consistently ignores or even endorses behaviors, such as comments or jokes, that discriminate, marginalize and exclude women.

The call for leaders to advance gender equality at work, regardless of whether they lead a startup, multinational, or public-sector organization, is in reality an invitation for them to lead.

Gender equity and leadership was the topic of the Women Business Collaborative CEO Roundtable with four women executives representing diverse industries. They represented nonprofit, corporate, government and entrepreneurs.

The CEOs had much insight to share, including a recurring conviction, best expressed by Stacey D. Stewart, President and CEO March of Dimes, that their organizations must reflect those they aim to serve. “If our organization doesn’t look like those who we are serving or deliver on the vision we strive to meet every day, we are letting people down.”

According to the 2019 U.S. Census, women represented the majority of prime working adults at 50.8%. Yet they represent less than 10% of Fortune 500 CEOs. The women’s leadership movement has a long way to go, ensuring businesses, governments and other organizations are truly reflecting the constituents they purport to serve.


Women can signal their readiness for increased responsibility by adding a credential to their resume. Our Supervisory Leadership Certificate Program includes a diverse course curriculum that not only includes a core course “Development Yourself and Others” but also covers other critical topics like “Coaching for Performance,” “Change Management,” “Supervision and Human Resource Functions,” “Interpersonal Communication,” “Helping Your Team Achieve Organizational Management,” along with a Capstone Course that integrates all the learning and knowledge. Now enrolling for the spring session, starting in February.


Forbes. “Women CEOs Discuss Gender Equity and Leadership,” Robert Reiss, December 10, 2020.
Harvard Business Review. “Leaders, Stop Denying the Gender Inequity in Your Organization,” Michelle King, June 19, 2020.
Harvard Business Review. “Will the Pandemic Reshape Notions of Female Leadership?” Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, June 26, 2020,
New York Times. “Why are Women-Led Nations Doing Better with Covid-19?” Amanda Taub, May 15, 2020

Dismantling Bias


The first hurdle we face as a society in dismantling bias is our own natures. Bias is baked into our brains. We literally can’t function if we don’t categorize the information we’re constantly exposed to: familiar, strange, interesting, boring. It is necessary for us to make inferences and assumptions. Otherwise, we’d be insensible with indecision.

Therefore, eradicating bias shouldn’t be the goal, and any plans to do so are inherently doomed to fail. So, what can we do? As individuals? As larger institutions?

As individuals, acknowledging and understanding bias is the first step toward lessening its influence. Experiences contribute to bias, and you have some control over the experiences you seek out. Here are ways you can harness the power of experience to start to disassemble bias:

  1. Put yourself in situations with people who are different than you. One of the most consistent findings in social psychology is that the more you are around people who are different from you, the more open-minded and tolerant you become. Especially if you can find common interests and values. We can hold problematic biases around race, age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, disability, neurodiversity and political preference, so don’t shy away from events, conversations or destinations that might put you in the way of people you may be unfamiliar with.
  1. Practice empathy. Try to understand people’s motives, attitudes and actions based on a wider perspective. Expand your knowledge with reading by diverse authors. Think about how you would feel if you were in their situations or had their lived experience.
  1. Get real. In order to deal with your biases, you have to know what they are, and the Implicit Association Test (IAT) has been used for decades to explore the gap between what you think and do. Or the difference between your “implicit bias” and “explicit bias.” Take a test to learn your particular association in multiple categories.
  1. Act as-if bias-free. Although you might not be able to control how you think, you can control how you act. Set aside the easy assessment or categorization of other people and behave bias-free, or how you might imagine bias-free.

Collectively, these strategies for tailoring your experience will help reduce the impact of biased behavior.

However, work on an individual level is only part of the needed change to dismantle bias. We also need to realize that bias is also a structural and organizational problem that will require additional work to change. And it can’t be just about the employees or individuals working for the organization.

Organizations need to examine and explicate long-standing practices and procedures to determine how they might be stigmatizing or disadvantaging people of color, people of the LGBTQ+ community or any other group about which we hold a bias.

This is not easy, but it is necessary work, if we as a society hope to dismantle bias and fulfill the promise of America as “a land of the free and the brave.”


Intercultural communications can affect your relationships with employees, clients, corporate partners and other stakeholders when conducting business internationally. Join Dr. David N. Coury, PhD, in our September Expert Spotlight to learn how you can prevent misunderstandings and broaden your awareness of cultural differences.


We have partnered with Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr., of American & Moore, LLC, to create a youth program Peace, Equity and Social Justice for middle school and high school students, along with their parents, encouraging #RealTalk.


Fast Company, “How to Become a Less Biased Version of Yourself,” February 12, 2019, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.
Insider, “Can Meditation Reduce Implicit Bias?” July 1, 2020, Sara Shah.
Scientific American, “The Problem with Implicit Bias Training,” August 28, 2020, Tiffany L. Green.