A standing-room-only crowd gathered at the Legislative Office Building on April 4 to hear from an inspiring panel of regional women leaders as they shared their personal journeys to leadership and discussed how to promote more women to leadership roles now and in the future. Representing business, nonprofits, and government, women leaders on the panel offered examples of gender bias in the workplace. Jill Hummel, President and General Manager of Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of CT asked the audience how many women had been told to “smile more” during a performance review. Hummel went on to describe the anti-bias training now in affect at her company that she hopes will pave the way for more women in upper management.
Dantaya Williams, Vice President for Human Resources at UTC Pratt & Whitney, was pleased to report that UTC has signed the Paradigm for Parity, pledging to have 30% of senior roles filled by women by 2030 and has already very nearly reached the 30% goal. The key, she suggested was careful monitoring of hiring and promotion to keep striving to surpass those goals and guarantee that forward progress continues. Elisa Bannon-Jones, Senior Vice-President of Talent & Culture, Frontier Communications, was pleased to report that Frontier had also taken the pledge, and emphasized that successfully realizing the goal would take a complex and dedicated strategy as the company works to ensure the advancement of more women to its top ranks.
State Senator Beth Bye emphasized the importance of working on the level of policy to advance women’s leadership, career success, and financial security. Bye cited the Pay Equity and Paid Family Leave bills as important legislation that she will champion during this legislative session. State Representative Lezlye Zupkus encouraged all of the women in the room to think of themselves as leaders and to bring other women along with them.
Yu-Hui Rogers, Site Director for Genomic Medicine, Jackson Labs, discussed the continuing perception that scientists are men and suggested that as women are now beginning to surpass men in college graduation rates, hopefully that perception will change.
Adrienne Cochrane, incoming CEO of the YWCA Hartford Region, ended the panel with this inspiring way forward: “Solutions to anything cannot be driven by one particular group. As Gloria Steinem said, ‘A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.’ It’s an ideology not a gender based thing. Everybody can make a change and it starts with us individually.”
The forum was convened to share newly released data from the Aurora Women and Girls Foundation on Women and Leadership. The data reveals that only 27% of executives at Fortune 500 companies in Hartford County are female and none are CEOs. However, there is a proven link between more female representation on corporate boards and financial success for firms. Connecticut companies are committing to increasing the number of women at their executive levels. The call for more women in leadership positions is also being heard in politics. Although now two of the eleven state senators and six of the thirty-eight representatives from the Hartford region are women, record numbers of women are running for office in 2018. The number of women mayors in towns across Hartford County has more than doubled from four to twelve, suggesting that more women are already becoming involved in local government. Publishing this data, Aurora seeks an answer to the question “How can more women take a seat at the table and provide leadership across the region?”
This program was supported with funding from the Richard P. Garmany Fund of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving in honor of Lydia Garmany.