Acting on Inclusion

Center for Equity, Gender & Leadership launches

Acting on Inclusion

Statistics point to a troubling and persistent reality: just 6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. The numbers show scant improvement on companies’ boards of directors, where women account for 27 percent of total membership.

The newly launched Center for Equity, Gender & Leadership at Berkeley Haas aims to improve these trends. After raising over $1.5 million in gifts, the Center, which officially launched on July 1, is working to advance and improve equity in the business world, which will help bolster numbers of women in executive ranks.

“As an American woman and business leader, I can imagine no more important purpose,” says Larissa Roesch, MBA 97, vice president and portfolio manager at San Francisco investment management company Dodge & Cox. She was one of 11 founding advisory board members to the Center and an inaugural donor. “It’s not enough to believe in something and to support it verbally or even with action. If women want to change things, we also need to make sure that we are contributing financially.”

The Center will convene female leaders from the political and business sectors to generate dialogue and joint action around issues of women’s empowerment and advancement. It also will conduct research to investigate ways in which women exert power and influence differently from men. Additionally, the Center will target the specific challenges of mid-stage careers, a time when women are known to drop off the path to leadership roles.

The Center’s work comes at a critical juncture: women hold 30 percent of private wealth across the globe, according to Forbes.

“There needs to be a recognition, especially within philanthropic institutions, that women give for different reasons,” Roesch says. “When those aspects are recognized and tapped into, the giving capacity is really breathtaking.”

Kellie McElhaney, the Center’s founding director and associate adjunct professor in Haas’ Institute for Business and Social Impact, says there’s a proven correlation that the more women are engaged and succeed in business, the higher the business returns. “Companies perform better financially, and it doesn’t involve getting rid of men. It’s when you get more gender and diversity equity in leadership,” she says. “Men and women of all races and ethnicities must serve as allies.”

Greater gender equality is also associated with better education and health, higher per capita income, faster and more inclusive growth, and greater international competitiveness.

Adds advisory board member Holly Liu, MIMS 03 (Information Management & Systems), co-founder of mobile gaming company Kabam, which sold in February: “There is not enough diversity at the top, leading the way. I cannot think of a better institution than UC Berkeley to move the needle forward and have an impact in this space.”

Additional founding advisors include Karin Bauer, MBA 94; Jamie Breen, Haas assistant dean of MBA Programs for Working Professionals; Donna Colson MBA 94; Stephanie DiMarco, BS 79; Kathy Downing, MBA 86; Carrie Schwab-Pomeranz, BA 82 (political science); Komal Shah, MBA 97; Allan Spivack, MBA 79; and Tootie Tatum EMBA 15. There’s also a growing group of pioneering supporters—people donating to the Center before December 31, 2017.