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|Friday, April 22, 1999 |
Tommy G. Thompson
News Media Contact
DWD News Office
Contact: Heidi Kafura
GOVERNOR THOMPSON LAUNCHES
INITIATIVE TO BREAK GLASS CEILING
MADISON--Top executives from 20 Wisconsin businesses will join Governor Thompson today at a forum to plan strategies for breaking the "glass ceiling." The meeting at the Executive Residence marked the kick-off of a series of nine CEO Breakfasts around the state to jump-start Governor Tommy G. Thompsons initiative to remove barriers to hiring more women and minorities in executive-level positions in Wisconsin companies.
"At todays kickoff and at the upcoming forums across the state, Wisconsins top business leaders are making it clear that to stay on top, Wisconsin needs to fully utilize the talents of all our citizens, regardless of gender or race," said Governor Thompson. "This talent is essential for Wisconsin to continue to lead the nation in workforce excellence."
The regional CEO Breakfasts, to be held in nine cities across the state, are the latest push in the Governors 5-year effort to raise awareness of the "glass ceiling" -- a subtle barrier that limits women and minorities from achieving top executive posts. Wisconsin became the first state in the nation to establish a Glass Ceiling Commission in July 1994, when Governor Thompson named the 24-member commission of top business and government leaders to focus public attention on the issue.
The Governor established the Commission in response to findings of a 1993 survey in which 58 percent of women managers reported a glass ceiling at their current or former place of employment. The survey of 887 Wisconsin businesses, conducted by the Wisconsin Survey Research Laboratory, found that 80 percent of women managers who left a company cited the glass ceiling as an important reason for their decision.
Since its inception in 1994, the Glass Ceiling Commission has developed a Board Resource Database, provided a resource speakers bureau, created a website, and established a Glass Ceiling Fund. In addition, the commission has hosts the "Diamond Award" ceremony in which top Wisconsin companies are publicly recognized for their efforts in breaking through the glass ceiling. Fifteen Wisconsin companies have received the award since 1995, including eight companies who were honored at an October, 1998 ceremony in Milwaukee, which drew 1,000 attendees.
The upcoming CEO Breakfasts are intended to broaden and intensify awareness of glass ceiling issues in boardrooms throughout Wisconsin. The effort comes on the heels of a 1998 survey by the University of Wisconsin School of Business in conjunction with the Glass Ceiling Commission, which demonstrates that the glass ceiling continues to exist in Wisconsin. The survey reported that women hold 9.5 percent of the officer positions and 8.1 percent of the director positions at the 144 companies surveyed. Women make up 69.7 percent of Wisconsins labor force.
"In todays competitive marketplace, it just makes sense to hire and retain the very best and the brightest," Governor Thompson said. "These forums will be a catalyst for expanding out talent pool and advancing qualified women and minorities to top management and board-of director positions."
The CEO Breakfasts will identify regional issues that may contribute to glass ceilings at area companies, as well as "best practices" that have been used by local businesses to shatter those barriers. The forums also will identify technical and resource assistance available to businesses from the Glass Ceiling Commission, and local resources available through area Chambers of Commerce. The Commission will identify major issues discovered through the forums and issue a report and recommendations for action after the forums are completed.
"The bottom line is we need to provide companies with information and strategies that will help them diversify," said Linda Stewart, Secretary of the Department of Workforce Development and Chair of the Wisconsin Glass Ceiling Commission. "By traveling throughout the state to host area meeting, we are reaching out to the companies and our local partners. These breakfasts will stimulate discussion and spur action to enhance employment opportunities for women and minorities, and result in a stronger, more competitive Wisconsin economy."
Andrew J. Policano, Commission member and Dean of the UW-Madison School of Business added, "It is our hope that through these mutual discussions and information-sharing, every company in Wisconsin will have the vision to create an internal support system to eliminate the artificial barriers that prevent the advancement of minorities and women to upper-management positions."
Added Harvey R. Pierce, Commission member and CEO and Chairperson of Madison-based American Family Insurance, which received a 1998 Diamond Award, "Wisconsin businesses need to expand the talent pool of women and minorities for executive-level positions. These CEO Breakfasts throughout the state will help provide the tools and resources to do just that."