Ronnie Caplane, Commissioner of the California Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, served as keynote speaker at the Women Executives in Workers’ Compensation pre-conference event at the 2015 California Workers’ Compensation & Risk Conference, where she spoke on the status of women in corporate environments and how to rise to the top.
According to Caplane, prior to the 1960’s, women were not represented in law school. Women started emerging in law school during the Vietnam War. Today, approximately 50% of law school classes consist of women. However, somehow the percentage of women who are managing partners has not changed in the past two decades. Only 6% of executives in the insurance industry are women. Somehow, with all the progress, women are still not making it to the top.
Why is this the case?
Work ethic is not the problem. Many companies hire women in entry-level positions and lose them over the years to turnover. Also, the work environment is not family friendly. The influx of women should have dictated this change, but it has not happened rapidly enough. Women need to create an environment where women and men can equally thrive.
This is not a woman’s issue. This is a corporate and cultural issue that needs to be discussed and changed by including both genders in the conversation. The women who went before us struggled to get the privileges that we have, but the fight continues. Women have to work for the rights we obtain.
How to rise to a leadership position:
Have leadership qualities. Women, by nature, are quick to apologize and take the blame. This is not something that a leader does and by acting in that manner does not help our cases. Also, take credit for the good things that you do.
How you get your foot in the door doesn’t matter as much as what you do when you get through that door. Once you get the opportunity, you have to work hard to prove you deserve it. You have to take chances and be willing to grow.
Challenge yourself. Nothing comes easy in the corporate or political world and nothing will be handed to you.
Understand your environment. How are decisions made? Also, network…but after you create it, nurture that network. Finally, form alliances with other women AND men in your office. As you are moving forward, reach back and pull other women along but include men because they help make the changes that will help women advance.
Speak up. This is something that women need to learn how to do more often. Ask why there are few women in leadership positions to put the spotlight on the issue. Having this courage can help move this struggle forward.