100 years. In a December 2017 blog post for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Jordyn Arndt '11 writes about research predicting that it will take 100 years to reach gender equality at the top levels of U.S. corporations.
"It's a staggering figure," Jordyn says. “It can lead to inaction, as the issue appears too big to tackle." But Jordyn is not one for inaction. She's on the edge of completing a two-year master's degree program in American foreign policy and international economics at Johns Hopkins University, and is driven by a belief that women need better support and mentorship to advance into leadership roles.
Jordyn Arndt '11 has been a master of making the most of every connection. As a mentor, she is giving insight and advice to provide St. Kate's students with the connection between where they are now and where they want to be. Photo by Scott Suchman.
Studies prove this repeatedly. Mentorship has a direct tie to professional advancement, and women have fewer mentorship opportunities than men despite research that suggests gender diversity improves business profitability, sales revenue and even economic growth.
There remains a "leaky pipeline" of women graduating with high professional career goals and those who actually advance to senior leadership positions. A 2011 study by McKinsey found that women are filling 53 percent of entry-level management jobs, with 37 percent of them going on to mid-management and only 26 percent advancing to vice president or high-level executive leadership.
Jordyn believes better mentorship can help eliminate the drop-off and create a groundswell of support for women's advancement into senior levels of business and government.
"College graduates are at point A. They have their degree, and they know they want to end up at point C. They have goals and know where they want to go, but they aren't always sure how to get there. What is point B? Our alumnae/i network-we can show them the B, the advice on how to get where they want to end up.";
Her own experience is proof. Jordyn has sought guidance at every transition along her career path. These moments have provided her with various mentors, crucial advice, valuable connections and a steady stream of new opportunities.
Find the Opportunities Around You
When Jordyn was a student at St. Kate's, she sought out faculty and student resources to broaden her aware ness of available scholarships, research positions and programs. She also used faculty office hours to gain additional time with her professors and studied abroad to expand her worldview.
"Leverage that institutional support. Find the people you want to reach out to through the honors program, career development center, alumnae/i services and other places on campus. Many of those organizations can even help you get in touch or establish rapport with people of interest to you, since you have something in common to bridge the gap."
Jordyn also encourages students to turn to faculty and staff for available opportunities and connections. She credits time and advice from economics professors Nasrin Jewell and Deep Shikha for shaping her current career path.
"Professors Shikha and Jewell have been very supportive of me throughout my education and career. They first introduced me to the field of international development and the importance of focusing on women."
As her interests in her economic studies grew, her dedication and vision for a more just world deepened her relationship with them and, in turn, their support for her.
"It's most effective when it happens organically," Jordyn says of the relationship. "I went from office-hour meetings to taking additional classes and writing papers with them. It becomes symbiotic where your interests are strongest, and you find ways you can learn more from them but also support them in their work."
This reciprocation became instrumental in Jordyn's senior year. Professor Shikha offered Jordyn a research assistant position over January term working in rural north India, and then another independent project that spring researching women in textile and clothing manufacturing.
Jordyn's resulting research paper earned her selection as one of 36 students worldwide to present her research at the 2011 Education Without Borders conference in Dubai.
“During this time, I applied for different scholarships and study abroad opportunities, and they always supported me," Jordyn said of her professors. “They wrote numerous recommendation letters and provided advice to help guide me along the way.”
After graduating summa cum laude with a B.A. in French, international business and economics, Jordyn's extra application efforts paid off. She received a 2012 Fulbright Scholarship to study women in textile and clothing manufacturing in Morocco. She spent 10 months documenting the experiences of women there, which cemented her desire to work in international policy.
Bravely Seek New Connections
Jordyn's next move was to Singapore, where she worked first as a research analyst and, later, as the government affairs manager at the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore (AmCham).
Shortly after her arrival, she attended a dialogue on Singapore's future. The discussion was led by Australia native Penny Burtt, who was head of public affairs and external relations for global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company.
Jordyn discovered that Penny had previously served in the Australian Foreign Service and attended The Women's College within the University of Sydney, where she majored in economics and political science. Seeing they had a common foundation, Jordyn took a risk and asked if she'd be willing to meet for coffee.;
"I wanted to get to know her and learn more about her work," Jordyn said. "She was very generous to agree to meet with me. Despite her busy schedule, she was helpful and supportive and we stayed in touch. She would send me different opportunities or provide suggestions of people to reach out to."
Over the next two years, Penny maintained a keen interest in Jordyn's work and pursuits. Eventually, they were matched in a formal mentorship program.
"She proposed we meet once a month. However, I hesitated to be in contact too frequently. I didn't want to impose too much on her time."