Article Originally Posted on Buffalo Business First
The Western New York Women’s Foundation has launched an initiative aimed at addressing the disparity of women in leadership roles.
Dubbed “All In,” it is designed to help increase the number of women in leadership positions at all levels, from local and state government to executive-level positions and boards of directors.
The initiative will focus on data collection and identifying women in leadership positions in the public and private sector; partnering with businesses who want to improve their work environment for women; help for women entrepreneurs in launching or growing their business; and a pathway for emerging female leaders to cultivate leadership skills.
It’s only by empowering women to lead the region will reach its full economic, cultural and social potential, said Sheri Scavone, executive director of the foundation.
“We believe that when women are able to reach their full professional potential, families are healthier, communities are more vibrant and employers find and retain the talent they need,” she said.
The launch event April 26 included comments by Felisha Legette-Jack, the head coach who recently led the University at Buffalo’s women’s basketball team to the NCAA tournament.
She talked about the importance of women standing up for each other by recounting a story about her last job at Indiana University. Legette-Jack led the Indiana women’s basketball team to its three best seasons, followed by two losing seasons. She was fired by a new athletic director for those losses, though her male counterpart for the men’s team kept his job after just as many losses.
During her time at Indiana, she also helped create a women’s leadership group called Phenomenal Women, which included women doctors, CEOs and other leaders. When she was fired, she said just one woman spoke out up her behalf. That’s something all women need to do more of, Legette-Jack said.
“It’s time for us to decide what’s right,” she said. “It’s time for us to decide today that I’m going to fight for a little bit more. I’m going to be all in! I’m going to be all in and if I have to go down because I’m fighting for a woman that deserves more, let me go down, but I need her to know I gave it my best.”
Legette-Jack’s talk was followed by female business executives and state government leaders including Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples, who both lauded more recent successes of women in government positions. But they also pointed out the importance of having more women at the table to ensure Buffalo continues its economic renaissance.
“Even though our economy is doing well and Buffalo is growing, we still need to have women at every table, because if we’re not at the table, our issues will not be discussed,” People said.
Venus Quates-Majors, president and CEO at Launchtech, a Buffalo-based management consulting and IT firm, said women need to challenge their own assumptions of what they can and cannot do.
“It would be fantastic to see what happens when we pull our resources and our networks and our ideas together, not only to make noise but also to get things done,” she said. “All in for me is code for no excuses.”
Information about the initiative and how to get involved is available online here.