The world celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8th. In addition to celebrating all the various achievements of women, this day serves to raise awareness regarding the lack of gender equality. The day is intended to celebrate the need for equality and yet ironically the day itself perhaps does not receive the equal treatment it deserves. I must admit I had never heard of Women’s Day until after the day had passed. The first Women’s Day occurred in 1911 in Austria and since then it has popped up here and there around the world as spikes of renewed interest in advancing gender parity took the form of rallies and women’s marches.
How far have women come in recent years to achieving workplace equality, particularly in the US? Is a push still warranted? Grant Thornton, a global tax, auditing and advisory firm has been tracking the progress women have made into senior leadership roles since 2004. Globally, in 2004, women held 19% of the senior executive leadership roles while in the US, for that same year, women represented 20% of those roles. In 2017 women’s global representation has gained ground and stands at 25% while the pace in the US has slowed a bit and now stands slightly below the global average at 23%. Despite the increase, gains have been very modest in the last thirteen years. Perhaps more startling is that in 2012, 30% of companies in the U.S. had no female senior leaders while in 2017 that number has not decreased but increased slightly to thirty-one percent. Advances are slow or even non-existent in areas. Furthermore, women have not broken through in many other areas of business and government.
Following are 15 jobs women have yet to hold in the U.S.:
· President of the US
· Vice President of the US
· Head coach of a major big 4 sports team
· Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
· FBI or CIA director
· Senate Majority Leader
· Member of the Joint Chiefs
· Secretary of Defense, Treasury and Veterans affairs
· Governor in 23 US states
· CEO of a top 5 Fortune 500 company
· Secretary General of the UN
Presently women on average earn only 80 cents for every dollar that men earn, however women do out-earn men in some professions. The top five are:
· Physician advisor
· Purchasing specialist
· Research assistant
· Social worker
These are however not the occupations in which women earn the most. The top 5 and their median pay are as follows:
· Corporate counsel – $115,000
· Pharmacist – $119,000
· VP of Marketing – $123,000
· General pediatrician – $152,000
· General practice physician – $173,000
Women are obviously successful and though one hasn’t piloted a top five Fortune 500 Company, Mary Barra currently helms #8 GM. Yet the gains women have made are barely measurable from year to year. A woman’s desire to manage both work and family is a frequently offered explanation. Catherine Hill, The American Association of University Women remarks, “Yes, the choices we make are a big part of it, but it’s also the choices people assume we’re going to make.” Meaning that yes, many women’s careers suffer when they take time off to care for children or family members but those who have no such aspirations are still penalized.
Mark your calendars for next March. Women’s day will be coming back around and we all have the opportunity to celebrate women’s gains or lack thereof with a blog post or at the very least, a shout out on Twitter.
The labor force participation rate for women grew greatly between 1975 and 2000 to a point where 59.9% of women 16 and older were participating. During the ten years that followed, the rate fell by 1.3% to 58.6% in 2010. Not a substantial drop but in the five years that followed, the rate had dropped an additional 1.9% to 56.7% in 2015. Why are U.S. women leaving the workforce?
One obvious reason participation rates are declining is the increasing amount of baby boomers leaving the workforce. Their departure however does not explain the whole decline. Many women are leaving due to an inability to balance their work life with their home life. A 2014 poll of nonworking adults showed that 61% of women aged 25 to 54 were not working due to family responsibilities while only 37% of men provided the same answer. For many women in the U.S., 12 weeks of maternity leave is not long enough and the rising costs of child care increase the attractiveness of quitting work life and transitioning to home life.
While numbers continue to decline in the U.S., they continue to increase in most European countries including Japan and Canada. One reason is that family policies in the U.S. are not as friendly as in some European countries. Yes, twelve weeks of maternity leave may sound lengthy but England, for example, provides maternity leave for up to one year and in many cases it is fully paid. They also offer protection for part-time workers. According to a study by Francine Blau and Lawrence Kuhn of Cornell, if the United States had the same policies in place for mothers provided by European countries, the labor force participation rate would have been seven percentage points higher by 2010. Though the European policies have their pros they have their cons as well. These policies which support working mothers also burden their economies. Between 20 to 40 percent of jobs in the Eurozone held by women are part time and a study by Blau and Kuhn found that women in Europe were half as likely as men to be managers while in the U.S. men and women were equally likely.
Many women who wish to return to the workforce are willing provided that their family life is not too disrupted in the form of relocation, long commutes or working irregular hours. This applies only to women with families. Women without children, like men, are more inclined to accept these inconveniences.
Many women are taking time off of work to raise their children but seek to return to the workforce once their children enter school. Their primary concern is of course how hirable they are after spending significant time away from the workforce. A woman with multiple children could conceivably be a non-working parent for seven years or more. Studies have shown that biases are indeed exercised towards individuals who have been unemployed for lengthy periods of time. So in this instance moms may be ultimately punished for having a family.
And yet one poll found that non-working women are not nearly as desperate to return to work as non-working men. In many instances, their lives improve in key categories whereas a man’s lifestyle tends to suffer during periods of unemployment.
Women want to succeed and be viewed as equals to men in the workplace and yet for mothers the best way to achieve this equality is to perhaps not pursue the path of motherhood at all. They have a choice; a career or being the world’s greatest mom, and the statistics above might suggest praise from their child is more valuable than praise from their boss.