VOICE OF DAYTON BUSINESS: Be an ally to corporate women leaders

Chris Kershner. CONTRIBUTED
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Chris Kershner. CONTRIBUTED

The mission is simple: more women in executive leadership in the Dayton region. However, the actions and outcomes aren’t always as easy as the mission statement. Since 2016, the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce has made a public commitment to helping more women advance into corporate leadership roles in the community and providing resources to employers to support this leadership pipeline.

To put this into numbers, Ohio’s population is 51% female. In the Dayton region, MBA grads are 40% women, management is 51.5% women, first-year law students are 51% women. However, when it comes to executive leadership in the region, that number drops significantly to only 23% women. We don’t have an intake problem in this region, we have an upgrade problem.

Supporting a solution to this problem and providing an equitable pathway is the responsibility of our entire community. It’s even more important for those of us in leadership roles, and that responsibility grows even greater for those of us who are men in leadership roles. Being a male ally, challenging the norms and being an advocate for advancing women is a role we should be proud to play.

We haven’t had the same experiences as women in the workforce, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help carve a path forward to creating equity for opportunity and advancement. As male leaders, we are in a position to create change and support our female colleagues, peers and staff.

It’s not advancement or promotions based on gender; it’s about realizing and understanding the challenges, culture, diversity of perspective and benefits of advancing women into leadership roles. I’m blessed to be the father of two daughters. I would never advocate that my daughters are given a job based on their gender, but as a father, I want them to work for an employer that provides an equitable opportunity for them to earn their place as a leader in the company.

Not only is this the right thing to do, but there’s a business case. Women leaders in the C-suite have proven to generate increased staff performance and create more inclusive workforce policies that support employee retention and recruitment. Additionally, companies that have transitioned women to executive leadership have realized increased bottom line profitability.

Being an ally to women leaders is a responsibility of good corporate leadership and is reflective of a strong, inclusive and equitable community. I challenge all (male and female) leaders in the community to identify how you can be an ally to corporate female leaders and continue to make the Dayton region our business community reflective of what makes us great … our differences.

Chris Kershner is the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO.