The Center for American Progress offers these impressive facts about women in the U.S. who make up 50.8 percent of our population:

  • They earn almost 60 percent of undergraduate degrees, and 60 percent of all master’s degrees.
  • They earn 47 percent of all law degrees, and 48 percent of all medical degrees.
  • They earn more than 44 percent of master’s degrees in business and management, including 37 percent of MBAs.
  • They are 47 percent of the U.S. labor force, and 59 percent of the college-educated, entry-level workforce.

Yet, according to a CNNMoney analysis, women hold only 14.2 percent of the top five leadership positions at the companies in the S&P.

It’s so obvious to me that a strong executive team makes a difference, and there’s a clear value in having a diverse workforce. While we have many powerful leaders here at Heartland, I would like to see our leadership candidates pools include more qualified females, and I’d like to see us increase the muscle we put behind efforts to develop and grow more diverse leaders within the company.

That’s why I was excited to learn that several ambitious female leaders in our organization have formed a group called Heartland’s Entrepreneurial Women’s Network to facilitate the development of women leaders and address the unique challenges these women face.

I recently spoke to this group during the first of its Women’s Leadership Webinar Series, which is designed to share proven principles for career and leadership development. Quarterly speaker forums are also scheduled, and a LinkedIn group has been formed to provide a sharing of leadership articles and professional development topics, publicize Heartland leadership opportunities, and provide updates on conferences and other community updates. And later this year, a mentorship program will be piloted to focus on becoming a top leader for Heartland.

An initiative such as Heartland’s Entrepreneurial Women’s Network is innovative and I feel strongly that it offers females in our organization countless benefits and many resources for professional growth.

For starters, it provides a safe haven for women to talk about circumstances they might not feel comfortable talking about with the opposite gender, and it can serve as a go-to place to discuss a problem, brainstorm a solution or celebrate a success.

It also gives female staff an opportunity to get various points of view and take advantage of the wide diversity of opinion we have here at Heartland.

Finally, it serves as a serious inspiration to many of its members because we have fantastic leaders in this organization.

That we’re building a true community of future women leaders and creating strategies to encourage women to climb the corporate ladder, demonstrates real progress to me. Women leaders with diverse experiences and backgrounds bring different skill sets than men — which can often translate to financial success. A program like this is not only going to promote great leaders within Heartland, but is also going to attract great women leaders to work for us.

I think the future is very bright for both the men and women here Heartland.