Lead and Influence
Marian Beumer MAOL’15 and Audrey Lukasak MAOL’15 are experienced professional women, but as graduate research assistants gathering data for St. Catherine University’s sixth annual Minnesota Census of Women in Corporate Leadership last summer, they were faced with hard numbers that changed their perspective on how women leaders can influence the culture and performance of their companies.
The Census, part of a national initiative, uses Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) data to measure the number and percentage of women executive officers and board members in Minnesota’s top 100 public companies.
Beumer works in corporate relocation at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, and Lukasak is a chaplain at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Both of the students in St. Kate’s Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership (MAOL) program were familiar with previous years’ Census data — that women make up less than 20 percent of the top leadership posts in Minnesota corporations.
Still, seeing the numbers in black and white helped them view women’s leadership as more than a matter of equity. “My eyes are open to a different way of looking at leadership in organizations,” says Lukasak. “I saw how successful companies are when they have more women in leadership.”
After collecting this year’s data, in partnership with MAOL professors Joann Bangs and Rebecca Hawthorne, Beumer says she is hopeful. “It is astounding how far our culture has come in terms of women in leadership,” she says.
As men in leadership retire, she adds, space will open for more women and people of color to join boards and rise in the executive ranks.
Beumer has been inspired by her MAOL education to seek roles within her company that draw on her strategic leadership skills, which include recognizing the power of diversity.
Since the project, Lukasak is more attuned to diversity, as well. She now pays closer attention to board composition at Mayo, where 11 women sit on the 32-member Board of Trustees that is chaired by a woman.
And, as an investor in corporate stocks, she now studies the annual reports that come in the mail. “I actually vote on the directors,” says Lukasak, with new dedication.