Home Wisconsin Women’s Leadership Summit panel on workforce tackles education, representation, barriers

Women’s Leadership Summit panel on workforce tackles education, representation, barriers


The State of Wisconsin job center listed 150,000 available positions, but there are only 50,000 people looking for work.

That’s one of the main workforce challenges facing the state, said Madison College School of Academic Advancement Dean Dr. Leslie Petty.

Petty spoke at a panel discussion titled “Upskilling the Workforce” at the second annual Women’s Leadership Summit Tuesday. Moderated by Dr. Sabrina Robins, chief operating officer at Abaxent in Appleton, the panel also included Latino Academy of Workforce Development workforce manager Laura Piña and Appleton Area School District behavior coach Poyee Xiong.

With such an imbalance between available jobs and available workers, it’s important for employers to make investments in retaining employees, the panelists said.

“We should consider (professional development) as an investment rather than an expense,” Piña said. Because when we think about investments, we think about it as that person is going to want to stay with me as an employer, because I take the time and I’m taking the expense … it does make a difference with families. And it makes a difference with that person. And it shows, wow, this person actually cares about my way of living and my way of contributing to this organization.”

Petty also said a rethinking of K-12, technical school and four-year college is necessary.

“We can send kids to the best schools with the most advanced technologies, we can give them access to these tools, but if they’re not taught how to use these tools, and how these tools can help them to be successful, we’re actually not doing them the justice that we think we are,” she said.

Xiong added that students of color in particular need to be shown they can excel in careers they might not consider available to them.

“That needs to start with creating opportunities to show students that they belong in these fields, they need to see professionals that look like them,” Xiong said. “They need to have the hands-on experiences. It’s to show that, hey, people in these fields will look like them and can and they can be successful.”

Petty also noted other barriers especially for women of color advancing in the workforce.

“Childcare is critical. And I’m not talking just childcare for first shift, nine to five,” she said. “I’m talking childcare for second and third shift. That is incredibly important. Also with Wisconsin, as we know, is a state that has a huge rural population. Transportation is also incredibly important.”

The hourlong discussion also included questions from viewers. The video is available on Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.