As Brooke has risen through corporate ranks, one thing has remained constant –– the fact that she is female. And the higher she has gotten, the lonelier she has found it.
“In the U.S., we have now eclipsed more than 50 percent of the workforce as women, but as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, we represent only 3 percent, and boards are only 15 percent women,” she observes. “This is contrasted with research that shows the power of diversity.”
While European governments and industry are taking steps to increase the presence of women in senior management and board positions, the United States is lagging behind, Brooke says. “The U.S. is behind, and I see it as an issue of American competitiveness. Senior-level American women are being tapped by boards outside the U.S.”
Beth Brooke has returned to campus as one of Purdue’s “Old Masters” and addressed incoming master’s students as Krannert’s Distinguished Executive Lecturer. She also is a regular speaker at the World Economic Forum and at numerous leadership conferences for women. (File photo)
As an advocate for the advancement of women, Brooke served on the U.S. delegation to the 53rd and 54th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. She chairs the board of The White House Project, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to training and advancing women in public leadership. And, under her leadership, Ernst & Young joins annually with Forbes to celebrate and recognize the accomplishments of women at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Most recently, Brooke was asked to serve on the International Council on Women's Business Leadership by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Brooke has been named five times to the list of Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women and was named 2009 Woman of the Year by Concern Worldwide.
Brooke describes her work with these groups as “pushing levers all the time” — policy, training, encouraging, financing, networking. The issue, Brooke maintains, is not quotas. It is part of a broader issue related to the power of diverse groups and the value of bringing multiple perspectives to bear on problem solving.
“Entrepreneurship — for both men and women — is where I have focused efforts for a very long time, in addition to fostering the policy and environment needed for entrepreneurs to be successful,” she says.
This concept is the underpinning of her thought and action as she travels the world for work. It also informs her approach as a speaker at forums on topics such as leadership in the 21st century, the role of business in society, issues impacting the accounting profession and global capital markets, women's leadership, and the need for private sector/public sector cooperation to tackle policy challenges.
“Women innovatively create companies because they see needs others don't, and they create the kind workplace cultures that people want to be a part of,” she says. “All countries need this kind of economic growth right now — no exceptions.”