Reflecting on Female Leadership

by Jan Wright, Publisher

For nearly two decades, CIBP published two monthly magazines: the one you hold in your hands, and The Peoria Woman, which acknowledged the hard work and celebrated the leadership of professional women in central Illinois.

In 2008, we made the decision to channel our limited resources into an improved, expanded iBi, reflecting the changing times and acknowledging the great strides that women had made since The Peoria Woman was originally conceived in 1990.

But in spite of the progress made, women still earn just 81 percent of what men do, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Certainly, it still makes sense to spend some time reflecting on female leadership, in business and in the community; thus, the first issue of iBi to focus on "women of influence."

Women-owned businesses, of course, contribute significantly to our economy, and their influence has grown over time. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, women now own nearly a third of nonfarm, privately-held U.S. firms and hold half of the country’s nonfarm jobs. In the 10 years between 1997 and 2007, the number of women-owned businesses grew by 44 percent, twice as fast as men-owned firms. A recent Time magazine article says it all in its title: “The Rise of the Sheconomy.”

December is traditionally a time for reflecting on the year past, and so we decided to take a look at 11 women who made a difference in central Illinois in 2011. They are a diverse group of women in a variety of careers and stages of their lives. Some I have known for more than 20 years; others I have met in the past two. But over the last year, they have had a tremendous impact on our region.

I am inspired by each of their stories, and I thank them for their honesty, confidence, style and grace.

One common thread of advice given by these leaders is to be true to yourself and your core values. Sometimes the demands of career and family, our own expectations, and the responsibilities we have toward others can be a source of conflict. I will admit to struggling with this myself, as my own path was not a planned life journey.

The need to feel passion for one’s life work is another significant theme, as is the importance of seeking ways to mentor and encourage young professionals.

As we close the books on another year, I give thanks for all of the strong leaders of central Illinois, male and female. And thanks to you, our readers, who are the reason we’re here. Here’s to a fulfilling and successful year in 2012! iBi

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