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Women under-represented in Summit County leadership roles, research finds

AKRON, Ohio – Women are under-represented at leadership levels in the Summit County workforce and held back by unconscious biases, according to research recently conducted for the Akron-based Women’s Network of Northeast Ohio.

The research focused on gender equity and women’s leadership in the private, public and nonprofit sectors, as well as the composition of nonprofit boards lead research analyst Casey Shevlin, told cleveland.

com on Wednesday.

The research draws from information on more than 5,000 senior level leaders, mostly in Summit County, gleaned from a variety of sources, she said.

Key findings from the research will be shared with attendees of a Women’s Network Leadership Summit, “Flux: a movement for change,” which is scheduled for 8 a.m.

to 4:30 p.m.

on Friday at the John S. Knight Center, 77 East Mill St.

in downtown Akron. Tickets are $149 for members, $199 for nonmembers.

Women and men are invited to attend.

Here are some of the findings:

· Women make up 70 to 75 percent of the nonprofit sector workforce nationally, but only 58 percent in Summit County

· Women hold 18 percent of senior level positions, vice president and above, in Summit County’s private sector, compared to a national average of 30 percent.

· Among Summit County’s 17 school districts, only 12 percent of superintendent jobs are held by women.

While a full report on the findings won’t be ready until later this year or in early 2019, the Women’s Network wants to get the information into the hands of its members and the community to begin affecting change now, said Women’s Network Executive Director Jan Conrad.

“We have a lot of work to do and we want to engage the community to help us make that happen,” Conrad said in an interview with

“If we’re going to move forward, awareness is a big part of that.”

The group started the research to have information for members and its funders, because it is a nonprofit, said Kirsten Lino, board chair of the Women’s Network.

It also wanted the research to help gauge progress by the network’s training and programming on leadership, professional development, and entrepreneurship.

But the results of the research uncovered information on unconscious biases that affect hiring and workplace practices and directly affect women in Summit County, so the Women’s Network created the leadership summit, she said.

“It’s very multilayered,” Lino said. “And we needed a place to talk about the research and share the findings; a place to draw from the community ideas and feedback about how to move the needle.

The research findings revealed gender inequality in leadership positions. It also noted trends in the perceptions and experience that respondents indicated through a survey, which was conducted by the Akron-based Center for Marketing Opinion Research, Shevlin said.

According to the survey, women indicated with greater frequency than men that they had experienced the following situations on the job:

· Interrupted while speaking at work.

· Earned less than someone doing the same work.

· Treated as if they were incompetent.

· Turned down for a job.

· Passed over for a promotion.

· Felt isolated in the workplace.

· Been mistaken for a subordinate.

Throughout next year, the Women’s Network plans to host a series of community meetings on significant pieces of data from the research, to gather input, Conrad said.

For more information on the Women’s Network, visit the website.

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