Tippie Women
July 18, 2016
Lift Iowa Staff

Iowa companies that value assertive leaders have fewer women in managerial roles, while companies that value communicative, inspiring, compassionate and sensitive leaders have more women in executive roles.

This conclusion is among several released last week as part of a survey conducted by Iowa Women Lead Change (IWLC), the Nexus Executive Women's Alliance, Iowa State University's Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, and the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business. It is the second phase of the Iowa Women in Business Leadership study.

This phase includes feedback from human resource executives in Iowa companies on the topics of gender-focused development practices, general development practices and the characteristics that a company values in its leaders. The first phase of the study, released in 2014, was a quantitative look at women in leadership roles in Iowa businesses -- nonprofit, for-profit, public and privately held. 

Other findings released include:

  • Companies with gender-focused development practices generally have more women in executive and managerial roles. Having a formal or informal women's network was the practice most strongly associated with having women in these roles.
  • Companies with general development practices also tend to have more women in executive and managerial roles. Flexible work arrangements were most strongly associated with having women in managerial and executive roles. Formal job rotation programs were also significantly associated with more women executives.

"Phase II of the study does not have a lot of surprises," said IWLC CEO Diane Ramsey. "But one thing is crystal clear: Without gender-focused development practices and good general development practices within companies, women fall behind in leadership ascension and retention. Formal and informal women's networks are an essential component to having more women in managerial and executive roles."

However, only a third of the companies surveyed have either formal or informal women's networks, said Tippie College of Business professor Amy Colbert

"Organizations that want to increase the percentage of women in leadership roles should consider supporting women's networks," Colbert said. "Building effective relationships across the organization gives women access to the developmental resources and sponsorship that they need to move into and succeed in leadership roles."

Leisha Barcus, president of Nexus Executive Women's Alliance, said the survey results provide businesses with information and actionable items that can better help women achieve managerial and executive roles within Iowa businesses.

Survey responses were received from 93 organizations, with the following demographics:

  • Their size ranged from five to 159,000 employees.
  • Nearly half of the companies had 100-500 employees.
  • The majority of respondents were from private for-profit organizations (56 percent), but public (11 percent), nonprofit (20 percent), and government (13 percent) organizations were also represented.
  • In total, there were an average of 43 percent women managers and 37 percent women executives.

To access the executive summary of Phase II of the Iowa Women in Business Leadership study, visit IWLC's website.