International Women’s Day is on March 8th. As we celebrate, it’s important to reflect on the achievements of women and take action to create a more gender-balanced world for the future.
When I was growing up, my mother worked outside the home. My grandmother took care of us. I thought this was normal. When I was six years old, we moved to a new town and I soon discovered my circumstances were actually quite unusual. Working mothers were not the norm.
In 1948, women comprised 32% of the workforce. By 1964, that number reached 40%. Today, women make up 47% of the workforce. While a working mother was unique when I was a child, today that is no longer the case. 70% of women with children under the age of 18 are in the workforce.
More women in the workplace yields dramatic benefits:
- Employee disengagement is a hot topic and is very costly to businesses. Women are more engaged than men (41% for women vs. 35% for men), according to Gallup. Additionally, women-led teams are more highly engaged.
- Women bring distinct viewpoints, ideas and insights to the workplace. Diverse perspectives can lead to superior performance at the business-unit level.
- Women’s strong communication, intuition and emotional intelligence can enhance problem solving and teamwork.
- Having a workforce that mirrors the demographics of your customer base can provide for greater insights.
Yet even with these benefits, challenges persist:
- There is a disproportionate number of women in leadership roles. According to a McKinsey study, the higher echelons of American business are predominately male.
- The wage gap continues to plague women, not just for short-term financial well-being, but for the long-term as well. Increasingly, states are enacting legislation to remove pay inequity. Lower wages may be preventing women from staying in the workforce because they can’t afford to pay for child care.
- Many women are leaving the workforce because workplaces aren’t family friendly. Contrast the US with many European countries that offer extended paid family leave upon the birth of a child.
What’s your plan to attract, engage and retain women in your organization? Here are a few action steps to consider as part of an overall talent management and well-being strategy:
- Make gender diversity a priority. Develop a strategy for attracting, developing and retaining women at all levels of the organization.
- Review your benefits plans. Are they family friendly? Paid family leave should not be an elite benefit.
- Ensure that policies offer flexibility so women will want to come and stay in your workplace.
As we commemorate International Women’s Day this week, we encourage all to celebrate the important role that women play in the workplace and to look for ways to overcome the issues that are keeping women from playing a larger role.