How Millenial Women Can Help Close The Wage Gap
4:00 pm, April 23rd | by Emily Manke
Full gender equality in the workplace will soon become a reality. Not only is it a morally sound cause, it’s beginning to make fiscal sense as well. While women have made significant progress already, gender pay inequality and a glass ceiling for women in most industries are issues that still plague us. When you look at the data, there’s simply no denying that we have a long way to go when it comes to equal pay for women and equal representation of women in leadership positions. It’s up to this new wave of empowered young female workers to make these changes happen.
Gendered pay inequality is a complicated, nuanced topic, in part because it’s hard to say what the cause of the inequality is. Societal expectations for women to take time off for childcare, and be more involved in domestic issues altogether, play a role, as do the types of jobs women are encouraged to pursue. Whatever the cause, and it’s most likely many, pay inequality exists. On average, full-time, salaried women in the US earn approximately 83 cents for every dollar that full-time, salaried male workers pull in, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As for women in leadership positions, it appears we’re making even less progress. According to data from GovernanceMetrics International’s Women on Boards Report, published in March 2011, women made up a dismal 8.5 percent of board room memberships. The numbers are even worse for CEOs. Only 21, or 4.2 percent, of the CEOs of the Forbes Fortune 1000 are women. Interestingly, of those 21 companies, every single one made it to the even more elite list, Fortune 500.
In politics, at least, we are making moves towards equality. Congress has a record 20 female senators and 82 female representatives serving today. Until the House and Senate have equal gender representation, however, women will “still have to fight because it’s still a problem,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), in an interview with Diane Sawyer. Though these numbers are somewhat discouraging, the amount of progress that has been made, is noteworthy.
A report on women in the workplace by Booz and Co., concluded that in the next ten years, one billion women will be entering the workforce. Penney Frohling is a business strategist and partner at Booz and Co. In an interview with CNBC, she discussed these findings. ”As the world economy grows and develops, countries cannot afford to ignore over 50 percent of their talent pool” Frohling said. “There is a view that countries that are able to tap into that talent pool are going to see higher growth. There is a very clear correlation between empowering women and GDP growth, literacy rates, infant mortality rates.”
Women on boards add significant value to the companies they serve. A report titled Gender Diversity and Corporate Performance, by Credit Suisse, finds that companies with women on their boards outperform companies with all-male leadership. In an interview with CNBC Michael O’Sullivan, the UK managing director of research and global portfolio analysis at Credit Suisse, spoke about the results. “We have looked at over 2500 companies globally going right back to 2005, so we have a huge amount of data. We found that companies with more than one woman on the board outperform those with no women on the board by 26 percent,” O’Sullivan concluded.
How will this new generation of workers influence the direction of women in the workplace? Aside from simply existing in large numbers, millenial women’s attitudes will hopefully help achieve long-term gender equality in the workplace. In a survey by Young Careerist on young women in the workplace, they reported being well aware of gender issues at work. 77 percent of respondents said gender discrimination was still a “moderate to severe” issue in the workplace. Stereotyping, gender pay inequality, unequal treatment, unequal opportunities, holding women to a different standard, chauvinist “humor” and comments, and sexual harassment were the most common workplace issues related to gender named by the women surveyed. Simply being aware of these issues is likely to make those women speak up if they see inequality, and agitate for change.
One change in the workplace that may help boost women to more equal earnings, and give them a better chance at obtaining leadership positions, is the fact that flexibility is becoming a more standard perk in many offices. “We are much more productive when we have the freedom and flexibility to get the work done when and how we want to get it done. Society isn’t 9am-5pm. I have the flexibility to work from home and I’m much more productive at home. I might run some errands during the day, but be online at 11pm. I’m still putting in a full day’s work plus some, but I’m not confined to 9am-5pm,” woman from the Young Careerist survey wrote.
Technology and globalization are increasing the prevalence of virtual, flexible workplaces. This is hopeful for women in the workplace, not only because it’s better for all women, but because it can be a godsend for working mothers. While we may be a long way from paid maternity leave in the US, which is an integral part of obtaining gender pay equality, flexible work hours and telecommuting are part of the solution for working mothers.
The fact that gender pay equality, and that a lack of female representation in leadership positions exists, is hard to deny. When you consider the fact that the numbers of women in the workplace are growing, and companies with more female leaders consistently do better, exclusive policies and attitudes toward women make less and less sense. Hopefully, the next generation of working women’s awareness of gender issues and an increase of workplace flexibility will help women in the future achieve gender equality in the workplace.
Emily Manke is a young woman in the workplace, and a lifestyle, health, entertainment, and Human Resources blogger based in Portland, Oregon.
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