After receiving and compiling the results of a survey sent to members of Iowa's EPIC Corporate Challenge, leaders behind the statewide public-private initiative now have a clearer road map to what it will take to increase the number of female leaders within member organizations.

Results of the EPIC Corporate Challenge's inaugural survey were reported at the initiative's annual luncheon on Jan. 18. The survey was sent to 44 EPIC Corporate Challenge member companies in October 2016. A full list of challenge members is available online.

According to survey data, in Iowa, approximately 30 percent of executive and senior-level positions, and 38.3 percent (Iowa-based companies) and 39.2 percent (U.S. companies) of first/mid-official and manager positions, are held by women. These numbers offered a baseline to which EPIC Corporate Challenge leadership could compare member data.

When taking the survey, members were allowed to respond for Iowa employees, or for all U.S. employees, or for both (by taking the survey once for each). Throughout the report, data was reported separately for those respondents who answered for Iowa employees and those who answered for U.S. employees.

Some survey findings, among member organizations:
  • Females make up 25.4 percent (Iowa) and 26.3 percent (U.S.) of executive-level and senior leadership positions.
  • Females make up 34.7 percent (Iowa) and 29 percent (U.S.) of first/mid-official and manager positions.
  • Salaries of executive and senior-level positions: male - $135,571; female - $113,444.
  • Only one-third of participating companies had evaluated gender pay equity within the last three years. Of those that did, 4 out of 5 made adjustments to wages as a result of the evaluation.
Diane Ramsey, CEO of Iowa Women Lead Change, a lead partner in the EPIC Corporate Challenge, said the survey's purpose was to establish a baseline to examine the female talent pipeline within member organizations.

"Other states are tracking this information as well, but we are among the first doing it voluntarily," she said.
Ramsey said the percentage of female first and mid-official managers within member businesses, as well as the percentage of businesses that have not evaluated gender pay equity, was among the most concerning findings.
"We can't change these numbers overnight, but our goal is the year 2025," she said. "Part of that goal is to get the first and mid-official manager percentage to 45, and executive and senior leadership positions to 35 percent."

To accomplish this goal, IWLC and other lead partners in the challenge announced at the luncheon plans to offer several additional resources to Iowa women and businesses, including peer-to-peer sessions for EPIC members, Women on the Rise leadership assessments, a Gender Intelligence Online Learning Experience and a Sponsor Ready program to prepare high-potential employees for leadership. 
An additional resource is the launch of the Executive Women's Leadership Institute, a new program facilitated by IWLC designed to equip senior-level women with practical and tactical strategies to improve leadership skills, as well as gain unique relationships with women who share similar experiences.  

"Something we hear frequently is that it's very lonely at the top," Ramsey said. "The Executive Women's Leadership Institute will create a network of peers for these women ... peers who have the experience to support their organizational efforts."

Next week in Lift IOWA, Ramsey will elaborate more on challenge goals, as well as how and when Iowa women and companies can get involved in helping accomplish them.

Lead Partners for the EPIC Corporate Challenge include Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, Iowa Women Lead Change, the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the Iowa Department of Workforce Development. Partnering organizations include Drake University and Nexus. Presenting sponsor companies include Delta Dental of Iowa, Hy-Vee Inc. and Rockwell Collins.

Ultimately, Ramsey said the goal is to expand the EPIC Corporate Challenge to 500 members. Businesses or organizations interested in becoming a member can learn more on IWLC's website.