A few months ago, I was approached by a woman whom I hold in high regard and asked if I would give her a few minutes to explain a passion she had developed. I agreed without hesitation to meet with her and to learn more.
She came to my office, and after a little chit-chat got right to the point: She wanted to better understand how I perceived women in the workforce and, more pointedly, how I perceived their roles at Reading Horizons.
I was quick to reply that I have tremendous respect for the capability, intellect, determination, passion, and influence of women in every facet of my life and that I have been blessed by tremendous contributions that women have made during my tenure at Reading Horizons.
She then presented me with a challenge, but not just any challenge—a challenge with some teeth.
She explained that she represented the Women’s Leadership Institute (WLI) and that their entire focus was to elevate the role of women in companies across Utah and the nation. She explained the ElevateHER challenge to me, which consists of a list of seven actionables for companies—tangible evidence of a commitment to be intentional in the mentoring, advancement, and promotion of women in the workforce. The list includes important measures, such as a focus on increasing the percentage of women leaders in executive positions and on boards of directors and monitoring pay by gender. It also suggests developing a mentoring program for women and recruiting them to run for political office. I was moved by the discussion and by the opportunity to align myself and our company with such a worthwhile cause.
I agreed to take the challenge and excitedly registered our executive team to attend a luncheon a few weeks later, where we would physically walk across a stage and make our intentions known. As we drove back to the office after the luncheon, I was able to engage the leaders in our company in a discussion about what we learned and felt and what we could do to help encourage women to take on various roles within our company.
I am proud to add my voice to the hundreds of others who are committed to helping the women who live in our communities to become a force to be reckoned with in commerce. My interest is not only to help remove layers of oppression, because it’s wrong, but I also believe that by removing the impediments and tapping the strength and talents of the women who will come to work for Reading Horizons that we will be much better equipped to fulfill our mission of teaching the world to read.
How can you do the same? While the Women's Leadership Institute ElevateHER Corporate Challenge focuses on the state of Utah, the principles they ask business leaders pledge to focus on are valuable for anyone. I encourage you to visit their website and commit to elevating the stature of women's leadership wherever you live.