SMWC President speaks about leadership
April 1st, 2014 | Betsy Elliott
Although 89 percent of adult Americans report being comfortable with women in leadership, only 18 percent of leaders in America are female. This is just one of the eye-opening facts about women leadership that Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) President Dottie King cited as keynote speaker at the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana Hamilton Country Leadership Luncheon. The luncheon, which took place at Oak Hill Mansion in Carmel, Ind., on March 11, 2014, benefitted the Girl Scouts’ capital campaign to build women leaders – a campaign that will result in the construction of a Leadership and Learning Center at Camp Dellwood in Indianapolis.
As keynote speaker, King discussed the differences between the ways men and women perceive themselves and experiences, the need for women in leadership positions and similarities between the mission of SMWC and the Girls Scouts of Central Indiana. She described the Girls Scouts and SMWC as “the girl experts and the women experts.”
“I am the mother of two daughters and four sons,” began King. “And I can tell you that boys and girls are different. You can raise them in the same home and provide, as much as you can, the same experiences, and you get a really, really different result. We went through a time in our history as women when we were pushing forward, and it was all about equality. But equal experiences do not equate to equal outcomes. We can put boys and girls or men and women in very similar experiences, and they will not perceive them the same. They will not take away the same thing, and we will get a different result. And I think it’s okay to start saying that.”
King acknowledged that this kind of dialogue is still relevant today, maybe even more so than previous years. She cited statistics including: only 17 percent of congressional seats are currently held by women; 4 states have never sent a woman to Congress; half of the states have never elected a female Governor; and only 3 percent of Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs. What is so important about the statistics King cited is that all of the metrics are down since recent years.
As a former mathematics professor, King related the importance of encouraging women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. She provided an example that if a young man is looking at a math problem he can’t solve, understanding 50 to 60 percent of it provides him with a feeling of confidence. A woman, on the other hand, has to understand 100 percent of it before she feels confident.
“Dropping out of the math pipeline too early, even if you’re not a [mathematics] major, like saying to yourself ‘I can never take Calculus I,’ that’s a career ceiling,” stated King. “You have just eliminated a lot of jobs. You’ve just guaranteed a lower starting wage, and your ladder is not as high.”
King concluded with a quote from SMWC’s foundress, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin. “Perfect abandonment of ourselves in all things for the future is not easy, but we ought to aspire to it.”