College of Business receives $1.25 million donation for women’s leadership program

The mentoring program will teach women how to succeed while facing gender bias.


FAU alumna Kathleen Brush will establish a women’s leadership program starting in September with her $1.25 million donation. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Brush

Hope Dean, Managing Editor

The Fortune 500 are the top profitable companies in the U.S., and last year the number of women in charge of them was at a historic high — 32.


This year, however, there are only 24, something that FAU alumna Kathleen Brush wants to change.


That’s why she donated $1.25 million to the College of Business, says the FAU News Desk. Starting in September, the money will establish the Kathleen Brush Program for Women in Leadership.


Brush, along with FAU and other local female business leaders, spent 15 months developing the program. Her goal is to help women overcome any biases they may face because of their gender.


The mentoring program will target women who are halfway through their careers and will consist of 12 seven to eight hour sessions every third Wednesday. And with Brush’s help in the beginning, the program will be taught by FAU instructors.


At the end of the 12 sessions, participants will receive a certificate.


“When I talk to men, they usually tell me this [gender] bias no longer exists. When I say, please explain why in 2018 women make up 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEO positions, which is up 2 percent from 1998,” Brush said via email. “They are left scratching their heads because they really believed the world is neutral on gender in leadership.”


One workplace bias is what Brush dubs the “double bind,” where men and women’s actions are perceived differently.


“The double bind is a situation where, for example a leader that is characterized as tough is applauded if it’s a man, but penalized if it’s a woman because she is acting like a man,” she said. “Or a man that asks for a raise is seen as self-assured, but a woman that does this is pushy.”


Brush added that another bias is born from “historical patterns” and is what she describes as “the elephant in the room.”


“It’s a bias that over the centuries of men running governments and economies has become baked into the walls of our institutions …” she said. “Because men have always dominated senior leadership they are the natural choice for promotions into executive leadership.”


The FAU alumna wants to teach women skills including effective communication, financial literacy, and the ability to motivate employees. She learned these while working as an executive and consultant at several companies over the years.


“Soft skills,” will also be applied to these basics to make them more effective, such as emotional intelligence.


This concept, Brush believes, is a clever way to turn history on its head.


“What I love about this formula is that many of the soft skills where women have an advantage, like empathy, have historically held women back. In the 21st century they have become a source of advantage,” she said. “If you want to be a great motivator today, you have to be in tune with employee ups and downs. Empathy can be incredibly powerful.”


The program will begin Sept. 5, 2018.

Hope Dean is the managing editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected].