The timing of the AICPA's inaugural Women's Global Leadership Summit was apropos, coming the morning after Mitt Romney's "binders full of women" debate response set off enough of an online reaction to inspire both a Twitter hashtag and a popular Facebook group.
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Though the Boston event's agenda was compelling enough to keep the subject of binders on the shelf, I made a point of asking speakers and attendees for their thoughts on the remark. My inquisitions were not along party lines, but gender ones. Women and women's rights have become a lightning-rod issue this election season, and within the profession, as statistics continue to reveal a disappointing percentage of women reaching leadership positions, despite the large numbers that enter the field.
While former CNN Financial News anchor Jan Hopkins told me in a video interview (now on our Facebook page) that the firestorm was likely in response to the insensitive nature of vetting cabinet members on paper, I discovered other interesting connections to the #bindersfullofwomen discussion more informally.
Which, as it happens, is a style that many would recommend over Romney's binder method, as informal relationship-building with qualified female leaders over time holds greater value than coldly leafing through pre-selected resumes.
Women as a whole are unquestionably making large leadership strides. During lunch, however, one attendee noted the time that she joined male colleagues of equal status for a golf outing and was relegated to fetching drinks. Other women at the table wished that they were interested in a sport where so many deals are still forged.
Nonetheless, some barriers to female advancement have fallen. Stories from successful female CEOs about their male- and female-sponsored promotions and work-life integration were inspiring ... and not to be flipped past.