New York State Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul encouraged women business leaders at a Business Council of Westchester roundtable event Monday to use the current momentum behind women’s issues to make more significant progress in attaining leadership positions.
Alluding to the 100th anniversary of suffrage in New York State, Hochul said women cannot wait another 100 years to be equal with men in the corridors of power.
“What else can we be doing to ramp it up because we are still so far behind,’’ said Hochul, adding that a recent study forecast that it would take another 100 years for women to reach parity with men. “I’m not waiting 100 years.”
More than 40 women joined Hochul at the Business Council of Westchester’s offices in an invitation only reception to discuss challenges faced by women entrepreneurs and business leaders. While those who attended said laws to encourage the use of women and minority owned businesses have helped put women on more equal footing in certain industries, weak family leave policies and lack of quality day care were among other issues that continue to block progress.
Hochul said she was excited about New York State’s legislative efforts to strengthen paid family leave without putting an additional financial burden on businesses. She said that the federal government needed to step up in this area. She added that men should advocate for these changes and also take advantage of family leave so the burden of caring for children and family did not fall entirely on women.
Marsha Gordon, President and CEO of the Business Council of Westchester, said that more needed to be done to attract talented women to the workplace. “It’s all about attracting talent,’’ said Gordon.
Allison Madison, who leads a 2nd generation staffing agency Madison Approach, offered a deeper view from the perspective of a woman business owner who recruits and places top talent.
“I look forward to the day when we are regarded as a room full of powerful business leaders, not identified as women business leaders. I recognize how far we have come from the days when my mother started our company in 1988 on the strength of the women who came before her, and I know the challenges that still lie before us. I am proud to be one of the women to carry on the legacy and I am proud that we employ a workforce that is 70% women. I know the struggles my employees have with the cost of childcare, housing, and healthcare. I cannot solve these problems myself as a small business owner, but I can come to these events and be a voice for them. These problems are not individual problems, they are workforce issues,” Allison stated.
Hochul said that businesses who are interested in recruiting women should enact employee- friendly policies such as on-site day care and more flexible work conditions. She urged women business leaders to help mentor younger women in the workplace.
“We have an obligation to reach out and pull up the next ones,’’ she said.
Gordon thanked Hochul for attending the roundtable, and encouraged women in the room to reach out to the BCW to act as a conduit to Hochul and other elected leaders.