Fellowship targets top corporate women

She was named one of the most influential women in Spain, but Isabel Linares still wants to learn how to become a better business leader.

Linares and 14 others came to campus for the first time Thursday for the GW School of Business’ “On the Board” fellowship program, which offers intensive training sessions in corporate responsibility, finance and leadership skills needed to serve on corporate boards.

“I think its important that, when we do reach a management position, we ought to give ladders for other women to come up,” Linares said. “It’s not always this way, but I think that little by little, women have to help women.”

The program, also coordinated by the International Women’s Forum, selected 15 inaugural fellows out of hundreds of applicants. It will help fill a void of top female business leaders nationally, with females comprising just 16.6 percent of corporate board members at Fortune 500 companes, according to Catalyst, an organization that advocates for women in business.

Penny McIntyre, a student and president of Newell Consumer Group, said when she was stopped from “grabbing the gold ring” at several points in her career, she realized it was a gender issue – not a personal one.

The program, announced last summer, stemmed from a large gift by University trustee Linda Rabbitt, founder and CEO of Rand Construction.

Rabbitt was one of 11 corporate leaders recognized by the Washington Business Journal for exemplary service on corporate boards – and one of only two women honored.

“I decided something needed to be done – to alter the landscape, to change the conversation and to finally move the needle,” Rabbitt said. “That needle of 16 percent female participation on corporate boards hadn’t moved in over a decade. And it was that evening [that] I decided to be part of the solution.”

Similar programs at Harvard, Stanford and Northwestern universities also look to advance women as corporate leaders.

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