By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Marlborough – Throughout her distinguished career, Kerry Healey has been on the front lines, seeing the places that women in academia, business and politics hold. She herself has served as lieutenant governor in 2003-2007 under Gov. Mitt Romney. This summer, she will step down as president of Babson College.
At the June 11 meeting of the Corridor Nine/495 Regional Chamber of Commerce Business Forward Females, she told an audience of approximately 100 women business leaders that although progress has been made, there is still a long way to go.
When she was inaugurated as Babson’s president in 2013, she became the first woman to hold that position in the college’s nearly 100 year history, she said. Although women represent over half of college students in the United States, only 30 percent of colleges have women as presidents.
In 2019, only 127 women (out of 535 members) are serving in the United States Congress. Women make up 25 percent of the Senate with the number a bit lower in the House of Representatives, at 23.4 percent.
In the business world, things are just as bleak, she noted. Only 33 women (6.6 percent) are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Women only hold 22.5 percent of board seats while more than three dozen have one or zero women on their board.
When it comes to entrepreneurship, things are a bit better, Healey said. Women own near 10 million of the small businesses (36 percent) in the United States.
“But for women entrepreneurs, the disparity and challenge is the lack of critical funding needed to start or grow a business,” she said. “Those who choose to invest are not investing in women.
“But it’s not all about men keeping women down,” she added. “Women have internalized the idea that we are worth less in the marketplace.”
She noted a study that showed most men would apply for a job if they only had 70 percent of the qualifications, while a woman would not, feeling she would not be qualified.
“We are ready to take on more responsibilities,” she stressed. “Networking with women is good, but you also need to network more with men. You need to reach out.”
Various studies have shown, she said, having women leaders in a company and on boards adds value with increased profitability and charitable contributions, lower employee turnover, and fewer instances of controversial practices such as fraud and bribery.
To help change these cultures, women – and men – must support women leaders by investing in college and universities and other programs that promote entrepreneurial opportunities.
Healey is a Republican but she noted that she does not support only members of her party.
“I don’t look at the party – I look at the person,” she said. “If we are going to make progress, we are going to have to do it together.
“I think at the heart of the issue is this: if we want more women to run for office or rise up in the workplace, we need to begin to reimagine the structures that support these institutions.”
Business Forward Females meetings will resume in September. For more information, visit www.corridornine.org,