Inforum Blog
Terry Barclay

Terry Barclay

As CEO of the state's leading professional organization for women, I have listened with special interest to each political party's efforts to address "women's issues" to win votes this past year.
 
The Democrats attack what they have called a Republican "war on women," focusing on statements like senatorial candidate Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" comment. The Republicans counter that what really matters to women these days are issues like the economy and the deficit. They accuse Democrats of talking down to women by assuming basic, bread-and-butter issues matter less to female
voters than to males.
 
Both parties have a point. But both are missing a larger, more important conversation. America desperately needs a nuanced discussion of issues that really matter to women. And so far we're not getting it. Not even close.
 
By focusing on sensational comments and rhetoric from a handful, politicians have been able to sidestep much more substantive issues like the leadership gap in corporations and in government. We live in a world in which women make up half the workforce and 60% of new college graduates. Yet women are still agonizingly rare on corporate boards and in executive C-suites.
 
Is there a viable public policy approach to addressing that disparity? Nobody even talks about that when the focus is on issues like abortion and birth control.
 
Elected leaders are right when they say women care about jobs. But they don't seem to acknowledge that economic issues are not entirely the same for women as they are for men.
 
It has been 49 years since the Equal Pay Act was passed -- and pay inequity is still an issue. There is a stubborn gap in access to capital to grow new businesses that is faced by female entrepreneurs. In 2009, only 11% of U.S. companies that received venture-capital backing had a female CEO or founder. But women-owned businesses in this country generate nearly $1.3 trillion in revenue and employ almost 7.7 million people. Workplace flexibility and family leave policies are vital to women and men at a time when two-income households are the norm.
 
Another thing neither party brings up are the tremendous benefits we are leaving on the table by not making gender equality a national priority. Consider these facts:
  • A new study published by the Credit Suisse Research Institute found that "over the past six years, companies with at least some female board representation outperformed those with no women on the board in terms of share price performance."
  • A recent report from the Committee for Economic Development found, among other things, that having more gender diversity helps companies better relate to consumers, suppliers and other stakeholders who are increasingly composed of women constituents.
Yes, women care about social issues like reproductive rights. But politicians make a huge mistake when they assume that we're all on the same page and vote as a block based on these issues -- or on any issue. They make an even bigger error when they act as if women approach topics like jobs, education and the economy from exactly the same perspective as their brothers, fathers, husbands and male friends.
 
Politicians probably ought to spend less time talking about how the other party is failing women and do more listening to the real concerns of actual women -- on their own terms, in places women choose to talk about them.
 
Inforum is and always will be a nonpartisan organization. We do not endorse candidates and we do not operate a political action committee. However, we offer something even more valuable – the voice of members who are engaged and influential at all levels in our communities. They’re highly educated entrepreneurs, top-ranking executives and the next generation of emerging leaders. They’re real people doing their best to build successful careers, businesses and families in the real world.

 

 

Terry Barclay
With fall comes a new year of great events and programs for Inforum in all five regions of Michigan where we now operate. We intend to bring our members an exciting selection of speakers and educational opportunities in 2012-13.  
 
The following is a sampling of things we have planned  this fall. Check out our website for some exciting additions to the schedule: 

Jacqueline Wiggins
 

Inforum named Jacqueline Wiggins to the newly created position of chief operating officer.

Based in Detroit, Wiggins oversees the implementation of Inforum's strategic plan, including statewide programming, affinity groups, industry groups, membership strategy, brand integration and marketing and communications.

"The past two years have been very exciting and challenging for Inforum," said Terry Barclay, president and CEO of Inforum and Inforum Center for Leadership. "Among other things, we've expanded into five regions across Michigan and implemented new programming designed to reach emerging leaders, prepare and connect women for corporate board positions, and make Michigan the Midwest leader in developing high-growth women entrepreneurs. Because of this, we saw the need to expand our senior team by adding an experienced executive with top-notch managerial and communications skills. We found that with Jacque and I am pleased to add her to our team."

Before joining Inforum, Wiggins spent 25 years in the banking industry, starting her career at National Bank of Detroit. She has held a variety of roles with increasing responsibility across consumer and commercial lines of business and support functions, including process reengineering, program management, marketing, and corporate affairs.
 
Most recently, Wiggins was director of executive communications and engagement at Citizens Financial Group, a $136 billion commercial bank holding company headquartered in Providence, R.I. Its subsidiary RBS Citizens, N.A. operates under the Charter One brand in Michigan. Wiggins remained in Michigan and traveled extensively, providing strategic communications counsel to the CEO with an emphasis on brand integration, executive positioning and messaging, and internal communication.
 
From 2005 to 2010, Wiggins served as public affairs director for Charter One in Michigan. In this role, she was responsible for the bank's charitable giving and community outreach strategy, as well as media and government relations, marketing sponsorships, and executive outreach. Wiggins directed the launch of several signature initiatives that bolstered the bank's brand, including Champions in Action®, the Job Creation Loan Program, and the company's extensive involvement in the North American International Auto Show and The Parade Company.
 
Wiggins has a bachelor's degree in economics from Wayne State University and a master's degree in financial economics from Walsh College.
 

She serves as member of the board of trustees of the Michigan Colleges Foundation and chairs the Women's Committee of the Belle Isle Conservancy. She and her husband Tom have two children and reside in Rochester Hills. 

Terry Barclay
 
One of the goals of Inforum Center for Leadership has been to bring our members and friends some of the best research available on the business case for women’s leadership in Michigan and beyond. For that reason, we were proud this past spring to have partnered with two national powerhouse organizations, Ernst & Young and McKinsey & Co., on two important projects.
 
In April, ICL and and Ernst & Young LLP released the first "Michigan Entrepreneurial Leadership Report." The study is a snapshot of women's leadership in Michigan's highest-performing entrepreneurial companies – those who have been recognized for their vision, innovation and strong record of financial performance and are the driving force behind growth and economic development.
 
This new study, which builds on Inforum's biennial "Michigan Women's Leadership Index" (MWLI), looks at the presence of women in the leadership ranks of high-growth and innovative entrepreneurial companies in Michigan.
 
The findings were presented April 24 at a Detroit event that included remarks by Beth Brooke, global vice chair, public policy at Ernst & Young.
Video of Beth’s presentation can be found here. A downloadable copy of the complete report is available here.
 
In June, ICL presented programs June 13 Grand Rapids in June 14 Detroit featuring Joanna Barsh, a director at McKinsey. Joanna provided a first-hand look at McKinsey's groundbreaking new study, "Unlocking the Full Potential of Women at Work,” which she co-authored the report.
Joanna’s presentation compared data from the national study to Michigan. Inforum was influential in recruiting Michigan companies to participate in the study.
 
There are many studies that count the number and percentage of women at the entry level (roughly 50 percent) of corporations and the senior executive level (single digits).  But few studies describe what goes on in between, closely examining the inflection points where women drop out of the race to the top. That is what the McKinsey study does so effectively.
 
Furthermore, the study looks at companies that are best at retaining talented women and provides information about how they do it.
The McKinsey report can be downloaded here.
 
We’re delighted to have participated in each of these projects with E&Y and McKinsey. We could not be happier to have partnered with them and look forward to future collaborations with each. And, when we do, we will make sure Inforum members get the benefit of smart, timely analysis of the data and what it means for them.
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