Earlier this year, I spoke at the “Young Women in Business — Leadership Camp” hosted by the ISU College of Business. Young women ages 13-17 were exploring the wide range of opportunities available to them through studying business. During my remarks, I strongly encouraged them to become visible leaders in the public-private sectors.
Currently, women make up just 22 percent of CEOs and less than 20 percent of corporate boards of directors. The executive female talent gap is real, and that’s why it’s critical to champion women throughout their careers.
Having more women in leadership helps our economy grow strong and our communities become even more vibrant.
In Iowa, we’re fortunate to have a public-private initiative called the EPIC Corporate Challenge. EPIC stands for “Economic Potential for Iowa Companies and Communities.” Last year, Nexus and Iowa Women Lead Change (IWLC) brought the initial concept to me. The EPIC Corporate Challenge helps companies track how they’re growing leadership for women at all levels.
Delta Dental and Hy-Vee have stepped up two years in a row to support the initiative. Organizations taking the challenge agree to examine their recruitment processes and retention practices for women. Some look at board representation. Others even study pay equity.
Company leadership determines which metrics to measure. Data is kept confidential and collected by Iowa Workforce Development (IWD). The numbers are aggregated to protect organizational identity.
Within the first year, more than 60 organizations became members including: Iowa Association of Business and Industry, Alliant Energy, Bankers Trust, Business Publications Corporation, Cedar Rapids, Coe College, DMACC, Drake University, Dubuque Chamber of Commerce, Greater Des Moines Partnership, Iowa National Guard, Iowa State University, MidAmerican Energy, Pella Corporation, Quad Cities Chamber, Principal, Rockwell Collins, Simpson College, Unity Point Health System, University of Northern Iowa, University of Iowa, Van Meter, Vermeer, Wells Enterprise and West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce.
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In 2017, I’m excited that we’re moving into the second phase of the EPIC Corporate Challenge. Please join me as honorary chair, alongside co-chairs Diane Ramsey, IWLC co-founder, and Beth Townsend, IWD director, in moving Iowa forward by closing the executive talent gap for women. For more information about taking the challenge in October, go to iwlcleads.org/EPIC.
• Kim Reynolds is governor of Iowa.