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Championing Women in Leadership: A Roadmap to Equity in the Workplace

Katherine Harrington

From Katherine Harrington, President & CEO | West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce

In the landscape of contemporary business, the journey towards gender equity remains a challenging one, marked by numerous hurdles and disparities. Despite advancements, statistics continue to paint a stark reality: women face a long road ahead to achieve parity in leadership positions. However, amidst these challenges, organizations like the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce are stepping up to champion women’s success in the workplace.

As the President and CEO of the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce, I’ve witnessed firsthand the obstacles women encounter on their path to leadership. While the statistics might seem disheartening, it’s imperative to acknowledge them to catalyze change effectively.

According to recent studies, women hold only a fraction of top leadership positions globally. In Fortune 500 companies, women represent just over 8% of CEOs—a figure that speaks volumes about the existing disparities in corporate leadership. Furthermore, the gender pay gap persists, with women earning, on average, 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, with even wider gaps for women of color.

However, the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce refuses to accept these statistics as immutable truths. Instead, we’ve taken proactive steps to empower and support women in their journey towards leadership roles. Our commitment to fostering women’s success is exemplified through various initiatives and programs aimed at providing mentorship, networking opportunities, and professional development.

One such initiative is the Annual Mentoring for Women Conference we hosted last week, now in its 7th year. This event serves as a cornerstone of our efforts, bringing together nearly 100 women mentors to impart their wisdom and guidance to aspiring leaders. With nearly 350 attendees, it fosters a culture of support and empowerment, inspiring women to reach new heights in their careers.

Moreover, our Tina Talks event amplifies the voices of top women leaders in the state, providing a platform for them to share their leadership journey and inspire others. These talks not only celebrate the achievements of women but also serve as beacons of hope for those striving to break through the glass ceiling.

In addition to these flagship events, the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce hosts a myriad of initiatives catering to the diverse needs of women in the workplace. From the Athene Black & Brown Business Summit to the Latino Trade Network, we strive to create inclusive spaces where women from all backgrounds can thrive.

Our commitment to women’s empowerment extends beyond events to tangible support systems like the WDM Leads program, Visionary Leaders Forum, West Des Moines Leadership Academy, West YP, and YURtern for College Interns, which provide resources and opportunities for skill development and networking.

As we celebrate the progress made in advancing women’s leadership, it’s crucial to acknowledge that the journey towards equity is far from over. The road ahead may be daunting, but with organizations like the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce, WLC, Intentional Connections, Fearless, and many more leading the charge, we can pave the way for a future where women stand on equal footing with their male counterparts in the workplace.

While statistics underscore the challenges women face in achieving leadership equity, initiatives like those spearheaded by the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce and our vibrant region offer a beacon of hope. By nurturing talent, fostering mentorship, and creating inclusive spaces, we can collectively drive meaningful change and build a future where every woman has the opportunity to thrive as a business owner, entrepreneur, and leader. Together, let’s continue to champion women in leadership and pave the way towards a more equitable and inclusive workplace for all.

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