INsiders: Supporting Women in Business

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A special INsiders panel on an all-women edition of Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick found some common ground on some of the biggest issues facing women in the workforce. The panel, hosted by Indianapolis-based Kiwanis International Executive Director of Youth Programs Christina Hale, consisted of Rolls-Royce in Indianapolis Chief of Business Integration for DaVinci Tiffany White, Indianapolis-based The Mind Trust Senior Vice President of Strategy & Community Engagement Kameelah Shaheed-Diallo and Women4Change Indiana Executive Director Rima Shahid. The four leaders discussed topics like the wage gap, executive opportunities, mentoring and talent development. White feels progress for leveling the playing field has been made, but more must be done and faster.

When White graduated from Purdue University with an engineering degree 25 years ago, she says only 10 percent of the graduating class was women. "We've almost doubled that now in 25 years -- so that's great, double -- almost 19 percent, but that was 25 years ago. Not fast enough and not enough. Another statistic is 19 percent of U.S. Congress (is made up of women), that's double what it was 20 years ago -- not enough and not fast enough," she said. "We always hear the statistics that five percent of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies (are women). We know that's not enough, so we've got to go faster."

Shahid is calling for more legislative support from women in the workforce. "If I remember correctly, Indiana has the sixth-largest wage gap in the nation and for minorities, we earn 44 cents to a dollar 34 cents to a dollar to our male counterparts and that's not acceptable," she said. "The only thing that's holding us back right now are our Indiana laws, because we have the talent, we have the capabilities, and we need to move forward as a state."

In terms of talent, Shaheed-Diallo says opportunities for women in education remain "endless." She says research points to a positive connection between organizations where women's voices are included and higher performance. "The other part is: women can do it, but we need male allies who also champion this cause. So, I think we need everyone to participate in doing this. Education is one field, but there are others, as well," Shaheed-Diallo added.

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