The Salt Lake Chamber’s Business Women’s Forum heard from Robyn Cohen, cofounder of Utah’s 40 Women Over 40, at its most recent networking luncheon.
Cohen has been working in the women’s advocacy space for over 15 years, and in two different continents, too. In 2008, she served as one of the first Executive Directors for Girls in Tech, opening a dozen chapters across the U.S. In 2010, she moved to Brazil and launched Girls On It, a media and events company focused on women. She then found herself in Salt Lake City in 2014, where she worked with Volunteers for Womenpreneurs, produced Women’s Week as the Managing Director at Impact Hub and started W Collective Co., a community focused on elevating women in Utah.
Utah’s 40 Women Over 40 is Cohen’s latest endeavor, sparked by her own personal experiences as an “older” woman in the corporate world.
“I thought, you know what? Fortune’s 40 Under 40, Forbes’ 30 Under 30, all these different titles. Did someone send out a memo that life stops at 40? What happened here?” Cohen said.
Cohen explained that elevating women of all ages matters, because statistics show that they need it. Only one in four C-suite executives are women, she said. What’s more, for every 100 men who get promoted from entry level to manager, only 87 women—and only 82 women of color — are promoted as well.
“Women are still dramatically underrepresented in leadership,” said Cohen. “That’s disturbing to me, because that’s not allowing us to grow and flourish as leaders at our companies.”
When it comes to women over 40, representation is an especially important goal for Utah’s 40 Women Over 40. Cohen explained that 25% of Americans are women over 40, yet they receive less recognition and support than other groups. Cohen described her experience as a woman over 40 as one of feeling less important and less valued, especially in the job market.
“We are a strong and mighty bunch,” Cohen said. “Let me just remind you. You’ve got a large group of amazing women representing you.”
Cohen left the Business Women’s Forum with five strategies for elevating women of all ages in the workforce:
- Have an abundance mindset. Cohen explained that the most important thing to remember is that the pie is big enough for all of us.
- Be a mentor. Whether or not your company has a formal program, Cohen encouraged attendees to be a mentor anyways and help the younger female employees within their organizations.
- Sponsor promotion. Cohen advised the Forum to sponsor female employees on their teams who they believe deserve a promotion. After all, she explained, they probably won’t ask for it themselves.
- Create a pipeline. Whether it be maternity leave or returnship programs, Cohen explained that the pipeline is an important way for women to stay in and return to the workforce.
- Remember that allyship from men matters. Cohen encouraged the women attending to engage, educate, enlighten and encourage the men in their circles to get involved in elevating women.
“My final thoughts are this: When we say elevate women, it’s all women,” Cohen said. “It’s women of color, it’s women+, it’s women of all ages, experiences and cultures. It’s everyone.”
The next Business Women’s Forum is on Tuesday, September 19 and will feature Salt Lake Community College President Deneece Huftalin. Register for the event here, or learn more about the BWF program by visiting its website.