Less than 100 years ago, women were given the right to vote. Several decades later we found our way into corporate America. Today, we have a seat at the conference table and are making important strides by taking business leadership roles. While currently only 3.2 percent of publicly traded companies have women at the helm, 2012 set an important record, with more women holding CEO roles at Fortune 500 companies than ever before. More positive change is on the horizon. This year, 41 percent of World Economic Forum Young Global leaders—78 of 192—are female.
Much of this ongoing success can be attributed to the immense progress women have made in terms of education. Today, for every two men who receive a college degree in the U.S., three women achieve that same milestone. Education gives us knowledge of the world around us. It helps us build opinions and have new points of view. It makes us capable of interpreting things rightly. Education provides us the essential building blocks for pursing fulfilling careers.
Career challenges that women historically faced in terms of pay-rate inequality have narrowed significantly since the 1960s. While there still may be a ways to go until the gap closes completely, educational opportunities will continue to play an integral role in this progression. Schools and universities are important places where women can learn the skills needed to succeed in business or politics. They are also places to find and nurture important relationships that will impact future employment and business opportunities. Building a network of mentors, sponsors and other key connections—what I call a “circle of friends”—means surrounding ourselves with those who are willing to actively advocate on our behalf, and help advance our career. They may connect us with senior leaders, promote visibility in the right circles, give advice on career moves or help find new opportunities either within or outside of a company.
Education better equips us to follow our dreams. It opens doors to exciting career and life opportunities. It enables us to better contribute to society and we are rewarded when exercising the expertise we have acquired. Gaining a solid education reminds us that we can all do great things if we just put our mind to it.