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Launching a Movement


At this year’s FMI Midwinter Executive Conference in Miami Beach, Fla., the Network of Executive Women (NEW) launched its new “It’s Time” movement for women’s leadership and workplace change. A summary of this presentation, given by NEW CEO Joan Toth and NEW Board members Amy Hahn of Ahold USA and Lisa Walsh of PepsiCo Inc., is excerpted below. Video highlights can be found on NEW’s “It’s Time” website at

Since its founding in 2001, NEW has been highly successful in putting women’s leadership on the industry’s agenda. We have built a powerful organization and grown to more than 9,000 members. We have helped tens of thousands of leaders.

But we’ve sent these leaders back to companies that haven’t changed. The share of women in leadership roles in our industry has barely budged in the past five years.

So NEW set a new course. We asked ourselves, what would it take to create a workplace where women had the same leadership opportunities as men and everyone could be their best? We interviewed our stakeholders and industry leaders, both women and men. We conducted focus groups and surveys. We engaged more than 1,500 people in all. NEW members told us they wanted better career strategies, greater opportunity, authenticity in the workplace and work/life flexibility. Women told us they needed to develop better leadership skills, reconcile their careers and lives, and be accepted as they are at work. Senior leaders told us they were under enormous competitive pressures, that they needed to prove ROI, do more with less, and find and keep talent.

These overlapping needs are the foundation of our movement to transform the workplace, win the war for talent and create a better workplace for women, men and the Millennial generation. The name of the movement is simple, direct and accurate: “It’s Time.” It’s time to adapt to the changing nation and our changing workforce, one that is half female and one-third non-white.

What you can do

Changing an industry is not an easy “ask.” But emerging leaders, mid-level leaders and senior executives can all play a part in creating a workplace with “no limits” for every man and woman.

Companies that want to increase the number of women in senior roles — and reap the rewards of women’s leadership — must make gender diversity a company priority and drive home the business case for women’s leadership.

Changing corporate culture means thoroughly challenging existing norms and stereotypes.

Organizations will need to:

  1. Redefine leadership. Transformational leaders engage, collaborate and value employee contributions. Organizations must incorporate these “feminine” leadership characteristics into a new leadership model.
  2. Engage men. Too many existing diversity and inclusion efforts treat white men as problems that need to be “fixed” instead of partners who need to be engaged.
  3. Engage senior leaders. Companies making progress on women’s leadership share one trait: Committed executives driving change.
  4. Nurture female talent. Fair hiring practices and work-life policies are not enough. Organizations must implement robust, corporate-wide programs that move the needle on women’s leadership.
  5. Achieve critical mass. Advancing women’s leadership requires a critical mass of women in top roles — a minimum of 30 percent, according to a report published by The White House Project, a nonprofit committed to getting more women in the talent pipeline.
  6. Enforce accountability. Organizations must have targets in place that are frequently audited and revised with the goal of increasing women in senior leadership positions.

Changes such as these will not come about on their own. Women must champion women’s leadership and enroll those who have the authority to help their cause. They should take risks and advocate the work-life changes that will help create a better workplace for everyone.

While women are not expected to bring about this change alone, they are far from powerless. Women can speak up and speak out; they can mentor other women and act as role models; they can demand challenging assignments, equal pay and promotions, and they can seek employment elsewhere if they do not get them.

Bringing about change requires a joining together of forces, not just of women, but of all who support women’s leadership. To get started on this transformative journey, visit the NEW It’s Time website and sign the wall of leaders supporting a workplace with no limits at .

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