Skill-Building for Local Women Leaders

Nearly 47 percent of South Carolina organizations have no women in decision-making roles according to a 2008 report by Clemson University’s Arthur M. Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership. To prepare more women to step into decision-making roles, the Charleston, S.C. Center for Women has launched a new Women’s Leadership Institute. The Institute is designed to teach Lowcountry women the skills and strategies necessary to become capable leaders. The Center for Women, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization and the only comprehensive women’s development center in South Carolina, focuses on making personal and professional success an everyday event for women in the Lowcountry.

“A report from Catalyst, a research organization specializing in expanding opportunities for women and business, reveals that companies having more women in their leadership team have a 34 percent higher return to shareholders,” says Jennet Robinson Alterman, Executive Director of the Center for Women. “Business, government and communities all face a multitude of critical issues and need a pool of women leaders and decision-makers who can resolve pertinent issues and help deliver improved financial performance. We believe the Center can play a key role in equipping local women with the right mix of knowledge, skills and abilities to help prepare them for these positions.”

National research into women in business conducted by Braithwaite Innovation Group, a local professional development organization, shows that business women skilled in communications, negotiations, conflict resolution, and general leadership abilities are better positioned to assume more responsibility. I found the Lowcountry full of professional and executive women – educators, entrepreneurs and former Fortune 100 company executives – who have these skills and who are willing to pay it forward to improve the status of women in South Carolina.  We have designed the Women’s Leadership Institute sessions to be highly interactive, using discussion, practical application, assessments and experiential exercises. Our goal is maximizing learning about leading oneself, leading others and leading within organizations.

This is the first intensive skill development program offered by the Center for Women. Topics covered in the monthly sessions will assist local women in building a wide array of leadership skills as well as gaining a broader and deeper business perspective for their increased workplace, community, home and personal effectiveness. Women can choose to take as many or as few classes as their schedule permits. Each course adds value as a stand-alone session or as part of a comprehensive year-long program. Based on feedback from recent Center for Women program and event participants, the women’s leadership classes will be held Saturday mornings, starting at 9:30 a.m. and will run for three hours.

For companies in the tri-county area who may not have learning and development opportunities or personnel in-house, this program provides them with affordable access to resources that would cost tens of thousands of dollars to create and deliver. “A Women’s Leadership Development study conducted in December 2011 by Mercer Consulting revealed that 71 percent of firms do not have a clearly defined plan for developing women for leadership roles,” noted Doretha Walker, past president of the Center for Women board of directors and also a leadership program faculty member. “This new program will provide a distinct cost effective advantage for Lowcountry employers looking to get ahead of the curve in training their female employees.”

For more information and to enroll, visit the Center for Women’s website at http://c4women.org/womens_leadership_institute.html.

Jane Perdue is a leadership and women’s issues consultant, speaker, writer, and Principal, Braithwaite Innovation Group, a Charleston. S.C. based female-owned professional and organizational development company.

Originally appeared in CharlestonCurrents on Monday, January 16, 2012.

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