Drivers behind the EPIC Corporate Challenge once again are planning to gauge progress made by Iowa companies in increasing the number of Iowa women in leadership positions.

Last Friday, the release of the second annual EPIC Corporate Challenge survey was announced to member organizations at the Iowa Capitol. The announcement was made by challenge organizers Iowa Women Lead Change, Iowa Workforce Development and the Iowa Economic Development Authority, as well as co-sponsors Delta Dental and Hy-Vee. 

The EPIC Corporate Challenge is a public-private partnership intended to increase the number of Iowa women in leadership positions. It encourages Iowa businesses and organizations to formally pledge to recruit and retain women at all levels of company leadership, as well as track and report progress made. 

The challenge was created through a partnership between the organizing groups and the Nexus Executive Women's Alliance. Iowa is the third state to launch such an initiative, but is the only state requiring member companies to track and report progress. 

This year's survey will be released to 62 companies that have signed on to the challenge, said Tiffany O'Donnell, chief executive officer of IWLC. The survey will measure each company's recruitment and retention of female employees, as well as the number of women in senior leadership positions and on boards of directors. It also will look at pay equity within companies.

"Iowa's EPIC Corporate Challenge is the only initiative in the country measuring and tracking five key metrics of leadership growth for women at all levels. Iowa leads the way with the help of organizations who recognize the need to leverage all available talent," O'Donnell said. 

The survey has several new additions this year. For instance, the first question asks about overall race and ethnicity at organizations, and the survey will focus on Iowa companies.

Also, select EPIC companies will be recognized for their implementation and commitment to tracking and measuring their progress.

Last year's survey helped challenge leaders create a clearer road map to what it will take to increase the number of female leaders within member companies. 

According to 2016 survey data, which looked at both Iowa-based and national companies, about 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, were held by women. These numbers offer a baseline against which EPIC Corporate Challenge leadership can measure progress this year.

Other results from last year's survey found disparities in the salaries of executive and senior-level positions. Male executives, on average, had an annual salary of $135,571, while females made $113,444. Also, 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.

Forty-four companies took the inaugural survey.

O'Donnell said she hopes the 2017 survey results, to be released in early 2018, show growth of women in leadership roles. Companies or organizations interested in signing on to take the EPIC Corporate Challenge may do so by contacting Diane Ramsey at