Growing up in the 80’s, on the heels of the second-wave feminist movement, I assumed that by the time I joined the workforce, there would be gender equality in executive leadership roles. Today, however, this is not the case. Women receive the majority of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, yet represent only 2.4 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs and 17 percent of elected government positions. Now is the time to capitalize on the strides made in education equality to accelerate the advancement of women into leadership.

Organizations with a significant number of women in leadership roles are known to make better decisions and ultimately achieve greater financial success. Yet as Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, describes, we as women, have a tendency to underestimate our abilities, don’t negotiate for ourselves, and often attribute our success to factors other than our performance.

We must move beyond these innate tendencies that deter women from leadership roles. I am passionate about this topic and have continued my education outside the classroom in search of a solution. Here are four lessons I’ve learned:
Have a sponsor. Five years ago I found a sponsor who supports me with her own influence as a leader. She is an incredible advocate who provides recognition and feedback needed to fuel my own ambition.

Support each other. I’ve built a network of women who have the same goal in mind—to support and encourage each other. Close supportive relationships between women who are working through similar issues at work and at home will increase the number of women remaining in the workforce.

Be dedicated to learning and growth. It has taken me a long time to recognize and harness my innate talents and to figure out where I need to grow. Leveraging my strengths and addressing my weaknesses through education, clearly-established goals, and action allows me to be accountable for my own development.

Finally, support the next generation. I’ve done this by chairing a community initiative called InfluenceHer. We focus on educating girls about the importance of academic success, leadership, and health and wellness. Not only do we make a difference in the lives of girls, we encourage women of influence to join together to engage and empower the next generation.