Among S&P 500 companies, women comprise just 25 percent of executive- and senior-level positions, 20 percent of board seats, and only six percent of CEO roles.1
These statistics may seem disheartening, but for the Wisconsin Evening and Executive MBA programs at the Wisconsin School of Business, they provide motivation for developing female executives through an innovative partnership with the TEMPO Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting and advancing women in executive leadership positions.
Now in its second year, the partnership delivers a three-part professional development program that gives executive women the opportunity to hear from industry experts and leaders from across the region and nation. The series has covered topics such as strengthening negotiation skills, becoming a nonprofit board member, developing new leadership communication strategies, and recognizing unconscious bias.
The Wisconsin Evening and Executive MBA programs designed the series specifically for TEMPO, and it has had a significant impact on participants.
“Being in the Wisconsin Executive MBA Program as well as a member of TEMPO has provided me with an amazing network of women that I can turn to for support, both personally and professionally,” says Renee Schlick (MBA ’18), senior project manager at Custom Solutions. “Because so many of my peers share similar experiences, we are able to learn a lot from each other. The relationships I’ve built have been invaluable.”
This year’s series offers participants access to the expertise and thought leadership found at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, with each of the three speakers from the 2017-2018 series coming from campus.
Among this year’s speakers was Kristen Roman, chief of police for the UW–Madison Police Department, who addressed the topic of authentic leadership during her TEMPO Leadership Series presentation. Sharing her experience being among a small pool of female leaders in her industry, Roman spoke about the importance of owning our story, building a network, and leading with authenticity.
A Pathway to Authentic Leadership
Roman laid out three key aspects to understanding authentic leadership:
- Move forward by embracing your past. Drawing on work by researcher, author, and TED speaker Brené Brown, Roman says that owning our own stories—understanding the events and experiences that have shaped us—and sharing those stories with others is a powerful way to connect and learn. “Freedom comes from accepting ourselves and from acknowledging that we always have more to learn,” Roman says.
- Don’t go it alone. Roman knows firsthand what it’s like to be a woman in a traditionally male-dominated profession. For women in law enforcement, “we can’t do this without support,” she emphasizes. The guidance she received from leaders and mentors she admired helped create a network of encouragement.
- Your leadership style is unique to you. Roman says it took her some time to understand her own brand of leadership and not automatically anticipate who others wanted her to be. “To be able to be an effective leader, I think we really have to wrestle with the human tendency to want to be liked, to want to please,” she says. “We have to be okay with understanding we’re not going to please everyone.” She describes working with a team as a constant opportunity to listen and learn. “Cultivating trust is something we have the opportunity to do in every single interaction.”
Beyond building leadership knowledge, the TEMPO series forges a sense of connection, creating a network to ensure that female executives don’t have to “go it alone,” in the words of Roman.
This outcome was exactly what Leslie Petty, assistant dean of the Wisconsin Evening and Executive MBA programs and a TEMPO board member, had in mind in developing the partnership between the two organizations.
“I am extremely proud of this partnership. In bringing together this group of influential women, we have created a network built around shared learning and professional development,” Petty says. “By featuring speakers from an array of industries and backgrounds, we are able to deepen our impact on the community and showcase leaders who are powerful and inspirational. I look forward to the continued success of this collaboration.”
Read more about the Wisconsin Evening and Executive MBA programs at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
1 Catalyst, Pyramid: Women in S&P 500 Companies (February 2, 2018)