Opportunities for women, minorities to be key topic at Women in Leadership Symposium

Darlene King helps companies implement diversity, equity, and inclusion in their workplaces. 

She is the executive director of the Michigan Diversity Council nonprofit. 

"Really understanding that equity is not equality. It is so very important for workplaces to be able to create a culture of belonging," King said.

King said only about 23% of leadership roles in Michigan are filled by women. For minority women, that number is about 3%.

"We have a long way to go and the only way we can get there is if leaders -- CEOs, chairmans of boards, the entire C suite -- is intentional about creating some opportunities through mentorship or sponsorship and succession planning within their organizations to elevate women," she said.

King says that type of opportunity for women and minorities is exactly what they'll be discussing at the upcoming Women in Leadership Symposium - where they're honoring congresswoman Brenda Lawrence. Florine Mark from WW, formerly Weight Watchers, is the keynote speaker.

"What their challenges are, what their struggles were, what are some of their missteps, what did they learn from it," King said.

King says this symposium isn't just for women - men are being asked to get involved, too.

"Because we have many men that are in leadership roles, it's important for them to understand, how do I support the women within my organization? And unless you're hearing from women about what they need, you can't just make the assumption that any strategy will work," she said.

King says those discussions are more important that ever, with so many women leaving the traditional workforce during Covid and the great resignation that's underway, businesses need women, but women need more from the people they work for, from equal pay to paid leave and beyond.

"When we think about where we are right now in our country with the great resignation a huge part of that is because people didn't feel valued, or they didn't feel heard," she said.

King says progress is being made. When the Women in Leadership Symposium started 11 years ago, it was only women. Now, 20% percent of those attending are men, and she hopes to see that number go much higher...

"The more that we communicate and create those spaces and places to share, the better off we're going to be, and that's how we support each other," she said.

The Women in Leadership Symposium on March 29 is virtual again this year. It costs $99. Register here.