Kathy Walsh is like a growing number of women in Connecticut. She owns her own business, Homeward Bound, with locations in West Hartford and New Milford. She used her experience in the fashion industry and in sales to build her business over the last five years, and says being a woman didn’t hurt.
“I just kind of used it to my advantage,” Walsh said during an interview at her West Hartford store. “I think people liked me and liked my femininity and I felt really good about it.”
Women now make up 51 percent of the workforce in Connecticut, according to the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women.
“I think that so many people see women in so many roles that they think there is true equality across the board. What I would say is, there’s really not,” said Teresa Younger, the commission’s executive director. “There is still the glass ceiling. Is it getting cracked? Time and time again, absolutely, but the work is not done and until we have complete family-friendly policies, we will not have real equality in the workplace.”
Women continue to fall behind when it comes to attaining leadership positions, Younger said.
There are success stories in Connecticut.
Ursula Burns is the CEO of Xerox, Marna Borgstrom is the CEO of Yale-New Haven Hospital, and Peyton Patterson is the CEO of NewAlliance Bank. However, just 13 of the top 500 publicly-traded companies in the United States are run by female CEOs, according to the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women.
“I think it’s going to take some time, but I do think that we are in a position with women right now across the board to be moving into those levels of leadership,” Younger said. “People just have to be willing to step away and give us those opportunities.”
Women continue earning less than men in most professions, including executive positions, according to the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women. One reason is that women often do not learn to negotiate as well as men, Younger said. Another reason involves women taking more time off to have or raise children, she said.
“Often times they say there’s equity across the lines. There’s not, and then over time that trend just perpetuates itself,” Younger said. “You move from job to job. Your next job is predicated on your last job’s salary.”
As women make strides in the workforce, business owners like Kathy Walsh believe the sky is the limit.
“I don’t even think there’s a big difference between women and men anymore,” Walsh said. “The opportunities are huge. Both my daughters, I feel the world is open to them in anything they want to do.”