Nan Keohane: Realizing the Potential for Women’s Leadership

Dr. Nan Keohane on Realizing the Potential for Women's Leadership

with a response from Melinda Wolfe of Bloomberg



On May 12, 2011, the National Council for Research on Women hosted a special webinar with Dr. Nan Keohane on Realizing the Potential for Women’s Leadership. (click here to download the presentation) Her presentation focused on findings from a recently released study from the Steering Committee on Undergraduate Women’s Leadership on how female and male undergraduates at Princeton approach their college years, the differences in how they define leadership, and in their overall experience. For instance, while women undergraduates were very involved in extracurricular activities, they were more likely to take on high impact rather than high profile positions within their student organizations.

The study makes specific suggestions on how to support young women on campuses, provide them real-life skill sets and make their existing leadership more "visible." These suggestions include orientation activities (with more than one orientation session held later in the academic year), mentoring, faculty awareness, and leadership training programs. Many of the patterns observed in the report are common to other co-ed campuses and have implications for how women advance in careers after graduation.

Following Keohane’s presentation, Melinda Wolfe—who heads Professional Development at Bloomberg and chairs NCRW’s Corporate Circle Advisory Board—offered a response from the corporate perspective. Ms. Wolfe stated that the parallels between the Princeton study and what she has seen in the corporate sector are very telling. In both sectors, women leaders face subtle biases and traditional frameworks for leadership that undermine their advancement. The good news is that the solutions are also similar: mentorship and sponsorship are key as is early intervention. The webinar concluded with a rich Q&A with participants.

Dr. Keohane is the former President of Wellesley University and Duke University, and has authored several books including Thinking about Leadership (2010).

To download an audio of this presentation, click here.