Overhead image of a group of people walking across a painted world map on the ground.

It has been a difficult couple of years for everyone, particularly working women. “COVID-19 is hard on women because the U.S. economy is hard on women, and this virus,” wrote Brookings researchers Nicole Bateman and Martha Ross, “excels at taking existing tensions and ratcheting them up” (Brookings, “Why has COVID-19 been especially harmful for working women?”).  Caregiving responsibilities fall disproportionately to women. A record number of women dropped out of the labor force during the pandemic. Remote and hybrid work options are a blessing and a curse. Recent Stanford research reveals how the shift from in-person meetings to virtual ones also has taken its toll on women. Women have more flexibility and choice yet are suffering from high levels of fatigue and are concerned about being excluded from advancement opportunities. “No one wants to go back to the office as much as white men,” read a recent Time headline.

Empowering Women in Leadership with WALS

Everyone benefits when we have more women in leadership. Nothing gives me more hope than remarkable women who are trying to make their workplaces and communities better. Now, more than ever, change makers need information, encouragement, and resources to take on challenges.

For me, this is lifelong work. I am a graduate and former board member of the BRIDGES Academic Leadership for Women Program and Leadership North Carolina. I previously served on the Durham County Women’s Commission and currently serve on the North Carolina State University Women in Technical Leadership board. I am a member of the American Association of University Women and Women in Bio. In 2017, I received the Triangle Business Journal Women in Business Award in recognition of my mentorship and leadership. At RTI, I was a part of the 2020 Leadership Team for the Regional International Women’s Day Forum, which garnered an RTI Team Award. Previously, I was a Diversity and Inclusion Cross-Institute Planning Group Member (2014–2015) and an RTI Diversity and Inclusion Strategy Group Member (2016–2020).

I am still doing this work—even during the pandemic.

  • I became a founding member of Chief, a private network built to drive more women into positions of power and keep them there. Chief is specifically designed for senior women leaders to strengthen their leadership journey, cross-pollinate ideas across industries, and effect change from the top down.
  • I joined the advisory board for an entrepreneur participating in a Springboard Enterprise accelerator. The accelerator provides opportunity for innovative women leaders, founders, and entrepreneurs seeking growth, funding, and connections to experts and strategic partners
  • I am a member of xElle Ventures, an early-stage angel investment fund set up to invest in and support women entrepreneurs. The membership is made up entirely of women. We invest in the ideas, products, and services of women

My RTI role as vice president of university collaborations gives me organizational visibility. As the new co-executive sponsor for WALS, the Women's Advancement, Leadership, and Success Employee Resource Group at RTI, I will act as a community champion and advocate for WALS in the organization. I will help connect the WALS leadership team to a larger network of leaders and resources inside and outside the institute.


Disclaimer: This piece was written by Jacqueline M. Olich, PhD (Vice President, University Collaborations) to share perspectives on a topic of interest. Expression of opinions within are those of the author or authors.