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Local / National News

Wednesday, 25 November, 2009 3:16 AM

More women needed in leadership positions, White House Project study says

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Mary Kramer (Publisher, Crain's Detroit Business), Miriam Muley (CEO & Author, The 85% Niche), Dan Mulhern (First Gentleman, Author, Everyday Leadership: Getting Results in Business, Politics and Life), Marie Wilson (President, White House Project), Shaunteel Jenkins (Councilmember-elect, Detroit City Council) and actress Geena Davis.

by Jason Rzucidlo
americajr@americajr.com

 

WATCH: The White House Project's "Benchmarking Women's Leadership" announcement at The Motown Mansion in Detroit

WATCH: Geena Davis addresses The White House Project at the Motown Mansion in Detroit

DETROIT -- A recent study by The White House Project indicates that there are too many men in leadership positions. The report, "Benchmarking Women's Leadership," was released last week and concludes that women are stalled at 18 percent. The survey was conducted over 10 different fields from the military to journalism to business and politics. The country is missing out on talent, ideas and experience from women that are more than capable of leadership positions. Actress Geena Davis was in Detroit last Wednesday for the announcement.

The polling was conducted by The White house Project and GfK/Roper Public Affairs. The study noted some bright spots for women including Sonia Sotomayor being confirmed to serve the U.S. Supreme Court and the addition of Diane Sawyer as anchor of ABC's World News Tonight.

"In 10 sectors of the economy where people are completely ready for women to lead, they're not in leadership," said Marie Wilson, President of The White House Project. "Across all those sectors, we only have 18 percent women in leadership in this country."

Women account for only 18 percent of top leaders, according to the study. In addition, women make 78.7 cents to every dollar that a man earns. Overall, 89 percent of Americans are comfortable with women being leaders. Furthermore, 82 percent of men are leaders, while only 18 percent of women are in leadership positions.

"I'm also on the board of The White House Project and I've been involved with them for quite a few years," said Hollywood actress Geena Davis. "I think the work they're doing is incredibly important to get a lot more women in the pipeline and into higher office."

Fortune 500 companies with high percentages of women officers experienced an average of 35 percent higher return on equity and a 34 percent higher total return to shareholders, the survey said.

Davis starred as the first female president of the United States in the ABC series, Commander in Chief. "It was great, it was really fun," the actress said. "It seems like the reaction has been that people enjoyed seeing a woman in that role. Marie always says, 'You can't be it unless you can see it.' I think it might have had some impact."

The report also said that 75 percent of Americans say they would be comfortable with a woman president and 82 percent with a woman as vice president.

The organization is working to get more female directors working on projects in Hollywood. "It's a real uphill battle because the percentage of directors has been stagnet for a very long time," Davis said. "It's been in the single digits. We just need to get a lot more female directors."

"The other thing we've been studying and we've been awarding films and television dramas that show women as leaders and work very hard to force people to put the Commander in Chief out there," Wilson said. "Finally, Geena came along. But what's really difficult is it's very hard to make a film about a woman leader. There are very few women or men that can green light a film about a woman leader. The excuses that men won't watch it are wrong."

More than 90 percent of the American public is comfortable with women as members of Congress, leaders of universities, charities, newspapers, television and film studios, heads of large companies of various types, and law firms, the survey said.

The Hollywood actress founded the Geena Davis Institute for Gender in Media. "We have a project called See Jane," Davis explained. "Our goal is to encourage the creators of children's entertainment to increase the percentage of female characters dramatically so that boys and girls can see that girls take up half the space in the world."

The report said 80 percent of U.S. residents are comfortable with a women as head coach of a professional sports team and as minister or other religious leader.

Davis recently starred in the film Accidents Happen. "I shot that in Australia last summer," the actress said. "It was really fun. That was my first independent movie. It was quite fun."

Women represent 57 percent of college students but only 26 percent of full professors and 23 percent of university presidents. Women are only 3 percent of CEOs and 6 percent of top-paying positions. Women are 16 percent of all directors, executive producers, writers and cinematographers. In addition, women occupy 22 percent of leadership positions in journalism. Women make up only 18 percent of law partners and only one in four are judges. Women represent only 21 percent of collegiate athletic directors, according to the study.

The Hollywood actress said she is looking to star in another movie very soon. "I'm just waiting for the next good script to come along," Davis said. "I definitely don't want to direct, I know that much. I just take as much time as it takes to latch onto something that I think is good."

The White House Project is a national, nonpartisan organization to advance a mass of diverse women into leadership positions. It has trained 9,000 women through its Vote, Run, Lead program since 2004.

When asked if she would consider filming a movie or television show in Michigan, Davis answered: "Yeah. Sure. That would be great."

Click here to visit the official website of The White House Project.

 

PHOTO BY MIKE ISMAIR / ©AMERICAJR.com

Geena Davis played the female president of the United States of America in the ABC TV show Commander in Chief.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Mary Kramer is the Publisher of Crain's Detroit's Business.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Shaunteel Jenkins was recently elected to the Detroit City Council.

 

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