Although women have earned more college degrees than men over the past three decades, they are still underrepresented at every level in corporate America. The 2016 Census Bureau compared the median earnings for full-time male and female workers, finding that women make 80 cents for every dollar a man earns. Despite seeming progress, we are still far from gender equality in the workplace.
LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company conducted the 2017 Women in the Workplace study to determine why the gender gap persists.
Many employees believe women are well represented in leadership, and as a result, are comfortable with the status quo. Moreover, men tend not to notice the gravity of barriers that limit women -- especially women of color. The research pinpoints a key reason for the lack of progress: we’re misinformed about diversity in the workplace, and we can’t solve problems that we don’t understand.
What are the facts around gender diversity in the workplace?
- Only 1 in 10 senior leaders is a woman, yet 50% of men and a third of women believe women are well represented.
- Fewer women are hired at the entry level, and the disparity grows with every step. Women are 18% less likely to be promoted than their male peers.
- Women are less likely to interact regularly with senior leaders and are less likely than men to aspire to be a top executive.
- 54% of women do all or most of the household work, compared to 22% of men.
Why Women in the Workplace?
Women comprise 50% of the potential workforce, so it seems intuitive that they should be included in corporate space. But more than that, ample evidence proves that women are not only beneficial, but integral, to a company’s success.
Gender diversity offers a myriad of viewpoints, skills, ideas, and market insights to a company, all of which enhance problem-solving and performance. Including women additionally allows companies to more effectively serve a gender-diverse client base.
A 2014 study by Badal and Harter found that gender-diverse businesses outperform those that are less diverse. Survey results published in a 2016 working paper by the Peterson Institute for International Economics indicate that, when profitable firms went from having no women in corporate leadership to a 30% female share, there was an associated one-percentage-point increase in net margin. This translates to a 15% increase in profitability for a typical firm.
What We Can Do
Gender diversity is vital to any workplace.
So, how can companies and the wider community help?
High-paying jobs for women, greater transparency around salaries, negotiation, family-friendly policies, and even new laws can facilitate the inclusion of women.
Caroline Simard, senior director of research at Stanford University’s Center for the Advancement of Women’s Leadership advises: “To get an equal pay, we need to ensure that women and men are treated equally throughout their careers. That means being evaluated fairly for promotions, having access to high-value assignments that can lead to advancement, and creating flexibility for parents without derailing their careers.”
As a single woman, you can improve your circumstances.
A few helpful tips follow:
Negotiate your Salary: When you interview for a position, don’t let your past salary determine your next one. Research the expected pay range for the job, and articulate why you are suited for the job -- and for the salary that you are requesting.
Raise Your Hand: Communicate early with your manager, as well as other influencers inside the company, so they know you are ready for new opportunities. If your team is aware of your desired career path, they can help you get there.
Network Strategically: Always demonstrate your value to influential people within the company. The top assignments, jobs, and pay are given to those who are visible to the right people.
Ask for Specific Feedback: Research demonstrates that women receive more ambiguous feedback than men. This may cause accomplishments to be ignored, or for you to miss constructive criticism on how to grow within the company. If you receive vague feedback, ask for more tangible metrics and follow up periodically to ensure you are making progress.
Female Allies: Lift the women around you; find female mentors. If you notice someone stealing the credit for an idea, you can say, “Great encapsulation of X’s idea! X, would you like to add more?” If someone is overshadowing a teammate’s voice in a meeting, you can say, “I would love to hear what X has to say!” Serving as an ally is crucial.
While women are still underrepresented and underpaid in the workplace, there is great potential for progress toward gender equity. By familiarizing ourselves with the facts, sharing the need for women in the workplace, and taking tangible actions to lift one another, we can slowly move forward.
By Tashrima Hossain