How staggering are these numbers? Research provided over the last decade shows that more women in high-level management positions grow a company’s bottom line yet the number of women in CEO positions today is below nine percent. And a study conducted in 2015 which compared the performance of Fortune 1000 companies that had women CEOs with S&P 500 enterprises run predominantly by men showed that the 80 women CEOs in the Fortune 1000 produced equity returns 226% better than the S&P 500.
Even more, according to a new report done by the McKinsey Global Institute, the United States could add up to $4.3 trillion in annual GDP in 2025 if women achieve full gender equality. They say that every single city and state in the United States could add at least 5 percent to their GDP just “by advancing the economic potential of women.” And half of U.S. states could even add more than 10 percent.
McKinsey uses ten indicators to measure gender equality in both the workplace and society. In four of these categories, gender inequality in the United States ranks low to medium. However, inequality ranks high or extremely high in six of the categories:
- Leadership and managerial positions
- Unpaid care work
- Single mothers
- Teenage pregnancy
- Political representation
- Violence against women
These six categories should be areas that we all focus on, as they could have the most impact on women’s fight for gender parity.
Women in the Workplace 2016, conducted by leanin.org and McKinsey, showed that more than 75 percent of CEOs include gender equality in their top ten business priorities. In other words, executives claim that it’s important to them to treat women equally in the workplace. But, are things changing? Not really. Women are not as likely to receive that first important promotion to manager, which can lead to a long path of being passed over for promotions. The result is that the higher the position in companies, the fewer women you see.
So, what do we do about this? Companies are starting to move more toward helping women achieve a healthy balance between their lives at work and home. Some are even going so far to provide childcare on-site at work, so that women can do things like lead business meetings AND have lunch with their toddler, all in the same day. The peace of mind gained from knowing one’s children are mere steps away can make a huge difference in a happy, productive employee. But there is a lot of room for companies to grow. Only 4 percent of companies have facilities like this near or on-site. The Wall Street Journal describes one child care facilityat Home Depot’s corporate campus that is 66,000 square feet, and includes three playgrounds, a water play area and basketball courts. It was created in the hope that helping employees juggle their family with work life would keep women happy and engaged in the workforce.
A mother and employee at Clif Bar says that enrolling her children in the 6,700 square foot child care center at work has cut two hours from her day, since she no longer has to do multiple drop-offs at day care and school before and after work. Changes like this increase employee retention and employee satisfaction with work-life balance.
The majority of companies offer programs to help with the work-life balance, even including options like working part-time and taking leaves of absence. But do employees actually take advantage of these? Statistically, not really. Even though they report that they think they are effective.
In spite of how far we have to go, take pride in how far we have come! According to the U.S. Department of Labor, only 21 percent of employees in 1920 were women, compared to 47 percent of employees in 2012. Women today have higher education, more diverse occupations and more leadership positions, resulting in a major social transformation over the past few decades.
The Women in the Workplace 2016 study concludes that improving gender equality at the office is hard work but work worth doing. Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. Diversity leads to better business results and all employees benefit from a workplace that is inclusive and fair. Companies have the potential to make a huge impact on gender equality in general, and everyone benefits when that is achieved. Let’s make it happen, together!