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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Dec. 12, 201902:50 PM EST

New executive will work to close the leadership gender gap

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New vice president of Elevate Women created by JAX Chamber and the Jacksonville Women’s Leadership Coalition will work to get more women into the C-suite.
by: Katie Garwood Staff Writer

The JAX Chamber and Jacksonville Women’s Leadership Coalition want to increase the number of women in leadership positions, so they are creating a chamber executive position to do it.

The position, announced Dec. 12, is vice president of Elevate Women. It will be part of the JAXUSA Partnership, the JAX Chamber’s economic development division. The chamber has yet to hire for the position. 

“This is not just an equity issue — this is an economic development issue. We know talent is the next battleground in economic development and we are not going to be competitive if more than half our workforce is not represented in key leadership roles,” said JAX Chamber Chair Debbie Buckland, who is leading the effort to hire for the position.

She is market president for Truist, the merged BB&T and SunTrust banks.

The position will design programs and opportunities to connect more women with C-suite positions, develop leadership pipelines in the region, and strengthen the overall workforce. 

The executive also will work on the creation of family-friendly policies, seek funding for female entrepreneurs and implement institutional reforms to lift up women in politics, government and business.

The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida will fund the position in its first three years through money from individuals and corporate partners.

It raised $450,000 to pay for the study and the first three years of the position.

“It has become clear that to reach the goal of increasing the number and percentage of women in C-suite roles, on corporate boards and in political office in Northeast Florida, we need a dedicated position solely focuses on this issue,” said Nina Waters, president of The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida.

The job title is derived from the organization Elevate Northeast Florida, the chamber's five-year regional economic development plan. One of the main focuses of that plan is attracting and retaining top talent.

It was determined the position was necessary after a study, funded by the Jacksonville Women’s Leadership Coalition, found  issues relating to women in the workplace throughout the region. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research conducted the study.

The coalition comprises 14 Northeast Florida women’s organizations that include the Women’s Giving Alliance, Generation W, the Jacksonville Women’s Network, the Women’s Center of Jacksonville and the University of North Florida Women’s Center.

Some key findings of the study for Northeast Florida include: 

n While women-owned businesses are increasing in the area, they underperform when compared to men-owned businesses because of a lack of access to capital.

n Several publicly held companies in the region have no women on their board of directors.

n Women in STEM careers in Northeast Florida lag behind the state average. Fewer than 1-in-20 women work in the science, technology, engineering and math sector. 

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