12/23/2014 10:41 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Remember "Binders of Women"?

Recently, Vision 2020 convened a group of women leaders in Pennsylvania to compile a list of names of highly qualified, accomplished women to submit to the transition team of Governor-Elect Tom Wolf. The purpose of this effort was to help achieve gender balance in cabinet appointments and senior staff in the new administration.

The result of the meeting was the submission of 60 names of talented women from across the Commonwealth with a letter signed by 16 recognized Pennsylvania leaders.

Gubernatorial elections were held in 36 states in November, and teams in those states are now busy identifying, vetting and making appointments to positions of importance and power. The same is true for the multitude of county commissioners, mayors and assorted other leaders across the nation.

Gender diversity, as well as racial and ethnic diversity, in executive appointments in government is important for many reasons. First, women make up slightly more than half of the population of the United States (1) and it makes sense for government to reflect the demographics of the governed. Second, women are most of the voters (2); and third, women are most of the talent - 60 percent of global graduates are women.(3)

Finally, research tells us that gender diversity contributes to better decision making:

The fact is that if you want to build teams or organizations capable of innovating, you need diversity. Diversity enhances creativity. It encourages the search for novel information and perspectives, leading to better decision making and problem solving. . .

The key to understanding the positive influence of diversity is the concept of informational diversity. When people are brought together to solve problems in groups, they bring different information, opinions and perspectives.


It's not hard to raise your voice in support of women being included in the appointments of cabinet positions, senior staff and the members of boards and commissions that are controlled by elected governors and other officials. Just do it!

Here are the easy steps:

Convene a group of diverse leaders in your community - business leaders, leaders of the chamber of commerce, higher education, school board members, social welfare organizations and anyone else who has an interest in local and regional leadership. Think local bank presidents, school superintendent, head of the YMCA or local Girl Scout Council, community college president, law firm leaders, community faith leaders, hospital administrators and city council representatives.

Ask them to think of the women in their community who would be good leaders in executive agencies and departments like Budget, Finance, Education, Transportation, Veterans Affairs, General Counsel, Health, Human Services, Environmental Protection, Community Development and Aging. Compile the names and their present positions and submit the list to the transition team!

Include a cover letter that tells the transition team that you support gender diversity and hope the new governor/mayor does too. Members of your committee can sign the cover letter to demonstrate the breadth of community support for shared leadership among women and men in the new administration.

Then, write an open letter to your local newspaper or blog reminding the incoming governor that shared leadership among women and men is a worthwhile and attainable goal -- Vision 2020's specific goal is 50/50 by 2020 in targeted areas. And indicate that you look forward to applauding his/her commitment to gender balance in senior leadership appointments.

Finally, keep track of gender diversity in top positions, and follow up in a few months with another public letter, either commending the elected official for his/her implementation of shared leadership among women and men or, if necessary, calling him/her to task for overlooking the opportunities for success in building a leadership team that reflects the demographics of the community.

This strategy has been tried before, and with a new emphasis on the importance - and value - of shared leadership among women and men, it can make a positive contribution to advancing women's leadership while at the same time shining a light on the benefits of shared leadership to the nation.


(3) In the United States, 53 percent of recent college graduates are women compared to 47 percent men.