According to the Digest of Education Statistics, women earned 57.3 percent of baccalaureate degrees and 59.9 percent of master’s degrees. Projected enrollments for female students through 2023 is expected to increase by 18 percent versus 8 percent for male students, indicating that women will continue to makeup more than half of the enrollments in degree-granting institutions.

Further, the U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau reports that 57.2 percent of the total working age women population was employed in 2013, compared to 69.7 percent participation rate for men.

More opportunity

Though these statistics provide evidence of a strong female workforce pipeline and increased labor market participation, women continue to hold fewer senior level leadership positions than men. According to Catalyst, a nonprofit organization whose mission focuses on increasing opportunities for women and business, women only held 14.6 percent of Fortune 500 Executive Officer Positions and only 4.6 percent of CEOs at S&P 500 companies are female.

"The lack of females at the top makes it difficult for female students to envision themselves in leadership positions. We see this reluctance to take on leadership roles in the classroom and in university clubs and organizations as well."

The lack of gender parity at the executive and senior managerial levels is discouraging to female business professionals, educators and working women in general. If we are disheartened by these statistics imagine what message this sends to the significant and growing population of female students.

Sewing the seeds

The lack of females at the top makes it difficult for female students to envision themselves in leadership positions. We see this reluctance to take on leadership roles in the classroom and in university clubs and organizations as well.

As educators, we try to deliver positive messages to encourage and inspire our female students to see beyond perceived barriers but the best way to accomplish this is for organizations to invest in their female workforce. If organizations want to retain and see their female talent pool succeed, and they should given the current numbers and growth potential, they need to invest in programs, such as Executive Education that support development of the necessary skills for women to lead.

Executive Education programs can also enhance access to female role models, potential mentors and sponsors early in female students’ academic programs and provide them with a more positive message about their future leadership opportunities. By investing in Executive Education organizations make an investment in their future as well as the current and next generation of female leaders.