Stephanie Schriock, president of political action committee EMILY's List, says that despite gender bias and other obstacles women have to deal with, more female leaders need to take charge of their own future.
EMILY's List, which was founded in 1985 by Ellen Malcolm and 25 other women to raise money for pro-choice Democratic women candidates, has successfully helped hundreds of women get elected to political office, including senators Hillary Clinton and Dianne Feinstein.
"We're just getting started, but we have a long ways to go yet. We're aiming to have 50 percent of Congress be composed of women, a few presidents under our belt, the basics," Schriock says. "It's time." Among the Washington, D.C.-based organization's leadership programs is Madam President, an effort aimed at electing the first female president of the United States. Inc. spoke with Schriock about the traits that define great female leaders and what struggles they face.
What makes women great leaders?
Stephanie Schriock: Women leaders come in all shapes and sizes, but one of the similarities you see in a lot of women leaders is the ability to work together at the decision-making table to get the best decision through collaboration. Women leaders also have a great sense of consensus-building that they bring to the House and Senate.
What can female leaders do for American politics and business?
SS: When you have more women in leadership roles you tend to see better policies for your communities, better profits margins in corporations, and better family-friendly systems that are good for both women and men. It all seems very logical to us--if you have a 50-50 split [between] men and women at every table, you will have better policies. [But it won't be] until we see our Congress and state legislatures looking like our communities and our nation that we'll get the right policies that reflect the needs of every citizen.
What are the biggest obstacles women face?
SS: We still aren't in large enough numbers in every room. When you think about corporate boardrooms and see one woman, there's a sense the board is thinking, "Well, we have one woman." That's an obstacle. We have research that shows once you have three or more women on a board, the organization has better results overall.
What can women do to help create more female leaders?
SS: It's all about that network. Men in our country have been building a strong network in business and politics for the past 250 years. The truth is women haven't had the ability to build that same kind of network, except in the last 40 years. We're catching up fast, but we are still in the process of building and it's not as big as it needs to be. Once you get that one woman in the room, make sure to grab your sister and bring her through.