Melanie Willoughby of NJBIA Discusses Women in Business and Government at Suburban Chamber of Commerce First Friday Event
Friday, March 1, 2013 • 7:21pm
SUMMIT, NJ – Melanie Willoughby, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs at NJBIA, discussed the status and role of women in business and government at the Suburban Chamber of Commerce’s First Friday event held at the Grand Summit Hotel on Friday, March 1.
Willoughby, who oversees the development of legislative and regulatory policy at NJBIA, spoke about the revolution and evolution of women in government and business. As one of the first four hundred women to attend Rutgers College and the first female student body president at Rutgers, Willoughby experienced the early growth of opportunities for women firsthand.
Prior to joining NJBIA in 2003, she served for eighteen years as the President and CEO of the New Jersey Retail Merchants Association. Willoughby started her career in the government arena thirty-four years ago when she joined the administration of New Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne. She served as the Director of State and Federal Government Affairs for the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.
The progress of women in New Jersey and the United States has been a recent phenomenon, she said. Willoughby noted that it has only been 92 years since women got the right to vote and that today, there are 20 women in the United State Senate out of 100 positions and 78 women in the House of Representatives out of 435 members, despite the fact that women comprise 50% of the U.S. workforce and their educational attainment surpasses that of men.
While the pay gap has narrowed between men and women, she explained that a womn still only get paid 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man for the same job here in New Jersey.
Willoughby said that to encourage women in business companies need to offer leadership training, career counseling, and mentoring, and have a CEO who has a top down commitment to female advancement. She noted that managers should be trained regarding how to hire, train and advance women and that formal company policies need to reward managers who help women succeed. In addition, she said that companies should train managers on work/life balance and businesses should identify and resolve wage gap grievances.
Willoughby stated that several companies stand out from the pack for their forward-thinking policies regarding women, including Abbott, Accenture, American Express, Bank of America, Merck and Verizon, among others.
“Continued growth for women is still a process. We have to be sure to bring men along so they can be part of this growth,” Willoughby said.