THE BLOG
02/13/2013 03:51 pm ET | Updated Apr 15, 2013

Top Women in the U.S. Has Reached 20% Mark, Should We Celebrate?

I have a 20 percent dilemma. Twenty percent of the new Senate is women. Hooray! Or do I mean shame on us? I am struggling to be positive about 20 percent because I see that figure, or something close to it, everywhere:

• 20% of Fortune 100 board seats are held by women.
• 25% of the corporate executives at our National Association for Female Executives (NAFE) Top 50 Companies for Executive Women are female.
• 21% of equity partners at our Best Law Firms for Women are female.
• 19% of the members of the new Congress are women.

The reason I even bother to be happy about 20 percent of anything is that many of the metrics about women are so much worse:

• 2% of venture capital money goes to women-owned businesses.
• 4% of CEOs at the biggest U.S. companies are women.
• 10% of governors are women.
• 11% of profit-and-loss jobs at major U.S. companies are filled by women.

Now, let's look at the big numbers:

• 51% of all professional and managerial positions are held by women.
• 47% of the American workforce is women.
• 46% of all U.S. law school graduates are women.
• 57% of college graduates are, you guessed it, women.

To get anywhere in life, we need specific goals. My goal is parity for women. If we represent half of our country's professionals and managers and half of its well-educated citizens and indeed, half of the nation's total workforce, then we should be half of the top as well. We should be 50 percent, at least.

I celebrate the progress we've made. I honor the 20 percent. But I don't want us to get complacent and bright-eyed with 20 percent. I want us to demand power sharing from the guys. Let's get our fair share of the money, the top jobs, the board seats, the positions of influence -- and the power.

The NAFE Top 50 Companies are exemplary not only for the initiatives they create to support and advance women, but also for imbuing their cultures with robust leadership programs that gets results. General Mills, for example, has created diversity scorecards focused on placing female employees in key roles. And at KPMG, 81% of employees surveyed say the firm provides opportunities for women throughout the organization. Target, too, encourages promising employees by enrolling them in its Talent Development Program, which offers managers and directors the seminars, coaching sessions and learning groups they need to get ahead.

In the February/March issue of Working Mother, we profile three profit-and-loss executives: Deb Henretta, a group president at Procter & Gamble, who has embraced change and risk in her career; Lynne Anne Davis, president and senior partner at Fleishman-Hillard, who not only oversees the Asia-Pacific region, but also encourages women's (and working mothers') advancement; and Tina Shiel, an executive vice president at Target, who oversees more than 1,700 stores for the retail giant.

All of these women have leaned forward in their careers with the support of their employers who value them and the work they do.

I call that smart power.

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