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Round Rock Chamber Business Women's Lunch Remarks for President Denise Trauth

President Denise M. Trauth

May 9, 2007

 

Thank you for inviting me to be with you today. I was asked to share some of my thoughts on today's workforce and its educational requirements and the future of higher education in Round Rock, and I am happy to do that.

I would like to say a couple of things to this audience about today's workforce and elaborate on each one. The first is that our workforce is greatly benefiting from the presence of women in it, and the second is that we in Texas are in big trouble if we don't get more of our citizens into college.

About the first, the presence of women in the workforce. You may know this as well as I do; you are, after all, women in business.

Currently women occupy almost half of the workforce, but hold only 23% of full-time management positions and 5% of senior management positions. About 15% of university presidents are women, but some of those are quite high profile, like Harvard, Princeton and Brown. Numbers are small, but the trend is in the right direction.

Those of you who are as old as I am remember the period of time when we believed women had to act like men to succeed in business. There for a while we thought we even had to look like men - remember "dress for success"? I truly believe that women are now being accepted for what they bring to the table -- accepted because of what they bring, not in spite of it. As that wonderful old feminist Bella Abzug said, "the test for whether we can hold a job should not be the arrangement of our chromosomes." And, as a whole, at least in this country, we are beginning to look past the chromosomes - particularly, and perhaps ironically, in the field of management. There is an evolution at work that may have a very real impact on women's options. I'm referring to the emergence of "interactive" or "collaborative" leadership.

Collaborative leadership is characterized by four factors:

 

  1. encouraging participation - including people in processes;
  2. sharing power and information - keeping information flowing in two directions;
  3. enhancing the self-worth of others - giving credit, praise and recognition; and
  4. energizing others - delegating challenging work that is exhilarating and fun.


This leadership style values openness, inclusiveness, consensus-building and participation. When women are managers, they - like their male counterparts - draw on what is unique in their past and bring that to the table. Not all women, but many women, naturally tend to use the skills that are characteristic of interactive or collaborative leadership.

Collaborative leadership is quite in vogue today, particularly in the realm of managing "knowledge workers" - people who are valued for their intellect, their ability to assimilate knowledge and their creativity. The convergence of the existing media technologies with the Internet-based companies is leading to more enterprises dominated by knowledge workers - and this is particularly true in this Austin-Round Rock area. These workers demand a work environment that resonates with the skills that many women managers quite naturally bring to the table.

I think women in general are natural business people. The business community is beginning to accept this, too, in a way.

As evidence of this little axiom I have just proclaimed - that women are natural business people -- I offer some changes I have noticed in business philosophy over recent years. It used to be, not so many years ago, that employees were pretty much the second rung of the ladder, if that. They were to be herded along, tossed aside when they did not fit in. Perhaps it was a mentality borne of the military model. But the business climate was filled with competition, aggression at all costs, dog-eat-dog thinking, and, frankly, a lot of testosterone. Older white males were all we saw around the board table.

Then things began to change. Business philosophy started to lean toward inclusion and innovation - if businesses were to be successful, they had to have a variety of voices around the board table. To be successful, they had to keep valued employees, and that meant that employees must be valued! They had to be listened to, cared for, mentored. And so it was that estrogen entered the business climate.

In the 1980s, women began to ascend to the higher levels of business. (In many cases, they had made the lower levels work for years.) They brought with them a sense of listening, caring, mentoring, nurturing, teamwork. The bottom line was the proof that this worked.

Business self-helps came along to bolster this idea. Do you remember TQM? Total Quality Management? If I could be so bold as to boil that down to its simplest form, it would be something like "treat other people like you want them to treat you." That's not very new, granted, but it comes from the feminine side of our natures.

Or take Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey champions the virtues of maintaining focus, taking responsibility, keeping our priorities straight, creating win-win situations and keeping lines of communication open. Doesn't sound very much like a dog-eat-dog climate, does it?

Or how about a book I really like -- Good to Great? This is a best seller and a book we use at the university. Author Jim Collins studied a set of eleven American businesses that had converted decades of mediocrity into sustainable, long-term superiority. His book is about what those businesses had in common. One of the things he found was that these very successful businesses had similar kinds of leadership. Let me quote: "[These] leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It's not that [they] have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious, but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves." Collins also characterizes these business leaders as people who "build enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will." Although many of these leaders are men, these character traits are quite feminine.

So I submit to you that women make natural business leaders. They are natural entrepreneurs. Women are born visionaries. What mother has not gazed into the crib of her newborn and not seen the next president of the United States or Nobel laureate? Women are born team builders, nurturers, listeners and mentors. They are changing the way business is done.

The second thing I wanted to say about today's workforce is that we in Texas are in big trouble if we don't get more of our citizens into college. The state has recognized this crisis. In the year 2000, the legislature endorsed a plan formulated by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board called "Closing the Gaps." One of the four goals of this initiative to be reached by 2015 was to enroll 500,000 more students in post-secondary education (that was half again as many as were already enrolled at the time). As if that goal were not ambitious enough, it was increased from 500,000 to 630,000 more students by 2015.

The success of the initiative is critical for the economic well-being of Texas - not to mention citizens' quality of life. In the years leading up to Closing the Gaps, the state had taken a long-range look at its economic forecast. Alarms went off. Texas was faced with a "growing unskilled, under-educated population that cannot meet the demands of a technology-based workplace." The average household income in Texas was expected to decline by 4,000 constant dollars by the year 2030. This meant increased public spending on prisons, welfare and Medicaid as a result. The state was losing ground in the highly competitive global marketplace.

Enrollment in higher education was increasing, but the participation rate was declining: The participation rate had been 5.3 percent in 1990, had dropped to 4.9 percent by 2000 and was predicted to fall to 4.6 percent by 2015. In contrast to Texas' 4.9 participation rate in 2000, California's was 6.1, Illinois' was 6.0, New York's 5.6 - three other very populous states. Additionally, the percentage of ninth graders who complete high school and enter college was dismal in Texas: 32 percent of Texas ninth graders completed high school and entered college, as compared to 54 percent in New Jersey, 49 percent in Illinois, 43 and 44 percent in California and New York.

That's a lot of figures, I realize. Sum it up by saying that Texas was behind the educational rates of other populous states and was falling farther behind.

You may have read news a couple of weeks ago of a study in this very same area funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation commissioned by the Coordinating Board. The study reported that if Texas meets the Closing the Gaps goals, it will mean one million more jobs by the year 2030. And $122 billion more in annual personal income. This is on top of growth that would naturally occur, even without Closing the Gaps. A more educated workforce means higher wages for workers and therefore a stronger economy. No surprises there: Higher wages mean more tax revenue, more money to spend, more money to save. A fulltime male worker between the ages of 35 and 44 with a bachelor's degree will earn 94% more than a male of the same age with a high school diploma. That gap is widening: the difference was 38% in the 1980s.

A more educated workforce also means a better quality of life for individuals, which means a better society. Educated citizens are less likely to be unemployed or go to jail or to need public assistance, and more likely to vote and become involved in civic activities and give money to charity. Educated citizens are healthier -- they smoke less and live longer.

The Coordinating Board study also re-emphasized for us the demographic challenges that we face in meeting these goals. Only 80% of Texans 25 or older have finished high school. This puts us behind every state except Mississippi. 81% of Anglo Texans in that age range have finished high school, 83% of black Texans, but only 55% of Hispanic Texans. In higher education, the gap is even wider: 27% of Anglo Texans have at least a bachelor's degree, compared to 18% for black Texans and 10% for Hispanic Texans. Texas is already a minority majority state; the fastest growing segment of our state population is Hispanic; Hispanics will become the majority as early as 2025. Our challenge is to put more Texans - particularly Hispanics - into college.

But if we did somehow attract all of these students to college, where would we put them? 630,000 more students is more than 12 additional campuses the size of U.T.! Twelve new U.T.s is not going to happen. So what can we do? Well, that brings us to something else you had asked me to talk about: the future of higher education in Round Rock.

Something we can do is educate students at places like the Round Rock Higher Education Center. I hope you have seen this campus - it's on University Boulevard, which used to be Chandler Road. Right now it's one building on 101 acres donated by the Avery Family of Round Rock, but we have a master plan for a whole campus. The center is a partnership with Austin Community College. ACC provides the lower-level instruction, and Texas State provides the upper-level and master's degree instruction. You can get a degree from Texas State in many fields without ever coming to San Marcos. This allows us to put more students into college more economically. Texas State cannot add students to its San Marcos campus as quickly as Closing the Gaps demands. But we can build a campus in Round Rock and share administration, faculty, support staff, computing systems, libraries, and student support programs like financial aid.

At this moment we are awaiting legislative approval for funding of a second building on the Round Rock campus. In the last special session of the legislature, we received approval to issue tuition revenue bonds for this building. What we need now is approval of a revenue source for the debt service on the bonds. The debt service is currently in both the House and the Senate budget bills, so that's good news.

We received a very generous gift of $6 million last year from the St. David's Community Health Foundation to start a nursing program. This program would be housed in that second building at Round Rock. The nursing initiative is a case in which the university is trying to help the state meet a workforce need. Texas faces a critical shortage of nurses. Hospitals in the state currently have more than 8,000 vacant nursing positions, and by 2010 the state will have a shortage of more than 52,000 nurses. On top of that, the average age of registered nurses is climbing; one-third of RNs in the country are older than 50. That means many RNs are looking at retirement. And the students are there: Texas schools turned away 4,200 qualified applicants to college nursing programs in the 2003-2004 academic year alone. If we can go ahead with the Round Rock building, the university could break ground in the spring of 2008. The first class of 100 junior-level students would be admitted to the school in the fall of 2010, with the first graduating class scheduled for the spring of 2012.

Let me conclude with a brazen plug for the Round Rock Higher Education Center. It's here in your back yard. Some of you might consider an advanced degree to position yourselves for that next promotion! You have a brochure with more information about the Ruond Rock Center at your place.

I want to ensure you that our future is incredibly bright - the future of this corridor, of Round Rock, and of higher education and business in this area. It's exciting to be part of it.
Thank you.