It has been twenty years since the Women’s Fund of Omaha first published its groundbreaking study that explored Omaha’s corporate, political and community leadership, and ten years since our last update to that original report. The Women in Leadership reports from 1996 and 2006 provided Omaha’s professional community with baseline quantitative and qualitative data about the leadership landscape for women in our community. The voices of our city’s leaders gave us insight into how individuals become leaders, how those leaders drive change, and also how slowly change has come for women in the workplace.
Our 2016 Women in Leadership report once again focuses on the voices of our communities’ leaders. Through 80 interviews with a wide array of Omaha’s leaders, we tapped into the influential minds in Omaha’s corporate, non-profit, academic, governmental, and medical worlds. We spoke to business owners, CEOs, senior administrators, organizational leaders, executive directors, COOs, and many more. The leaders we interviewed were as diverse in their backgrounds as they were in their current roles. However, each shared a deep understanding of Omaha, its organizations, and the kinds of leaders it produces.
By examining each level separately, we are able to provide a more comprehensive portrait of leadership in Omaha by answering the following questions:
► What are the characteristics of the leadership landscape of Omaha?
► What are the characteristics of successful organizations that grow strong leaders?
► What are the characteristics of individual leaders?
The testimonies that leaders shared with us about both the successes and challenges, the positives and the negatives, and current realities of becoming a leader in Omaha are powerful. Their experiences and reflections urge us to ask how we can make Omaha’s working world a more inclusive environment that inspires young girls to dream and reach success at equal rates to their male peers.
Women’s Fund of Omaha Executive Director Michelle Zych notes, “Workplaces are changing. In order to compete for the best and brightest talent, companies in Omaha need to adapt to the growing demands for flexibility for all genders, regardless of their family structure, to ensure that the pipelines to leadership are as diverse as possible. The research really is telling us where we need to grow as a community, and where we need to all learn to better advocate for those around us.”
We know that we observe growth of productivity, output, mission adherence, and problem solving when everyone in a community is encouraged to succeed to their highest potential. Our hope is for this kind of growth to continue and expand in our city.
The power to make Omaha a leader in gender equity in the workplace rests with each of us. The research includes action steps—crafted with careful consideration of both the voices of the participants and an extensive review of best business practices—for the community, organization and individual levels.
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