It is commonly acknowledged that women are vastly underrepresented at the highest level of businesses. Of Fortune 500 companies, only 21 are led by women. That’s only 4% representation; even the Senate has around 20% women. But the question is, why does this matter? Is the issue of gender parity in the workplace really an issue?
There are several reasons why it does matter.
Americans Want to See More Women in Leadership Positions
According to the study from the Rockefeller Foundation linked above, 4 out of 5 Americans believe that men and women should be equally represented in the upper echelons of businesses, but just a third believe that their companies prioritize helping women achieve leadership roles in their companies. One in four say that there are no women in leadership positions throughout their business.
Leading Women Would Help with Pay Equity
Women fall dramatically behind men in pay equity very quickly, with the problem being noticeably worse for Black women and other women of color. One reason that experts believe improving gender equality in the workplace is important is that it would help to balance out pay equity.
With more women in decision making roles, women are less likely to be passed over for promotions or receive unfair raises relative to their male counterparts.
More Voices Means Better Solutions
It has been demonstrated over and over that diversity of thought is critical to a creative, vibrant, thriving workplace. When we are surrounded by people who are just like us, then we’re likely to have the same sort of thoughts together. When we have diverse voices at the table and honor and acknowledge different perspectives during decision making, better choices are made.
This is an argument not just for bringing more women into leadership positions, but also breaking down the barriers that keep people of color, LGBT folks, disabled people, and other marginalized workers from having a voice at the highest levels of business.
Women Are Better Bargainers
In the Senate, women make better deals than men do. Women introduce more bills and get more support for those bills than male senators. This can be extrapolated to the way women operate in business and in the world.
For various socialized reasons, women are encouraged from a very young age to be better at collaboration and better at working together to achieve mutually beneficial results. In a business world where B2B partners can make or break a company, this is a crucial skill.
Women Need Role Models
One reason that women struggle in achieving leadership positions is that they lack role models and mentors to show them how it’s done. It is generally agreed that without representation of those who have achieved something before, it’s hard for others to move forward. It’s easier to climb the mountain when you see that someone else has done it.
This is especially true in the world of business. Successful business people regularly speak about their mentors and the advice and help they received from those who had gone before them. Without someone to speak to the specific issues that women face in the male-dominated workplace, women may struggle and falter in their climbs. Two thirds of Americans say this is a major problem that women face.
Women Make Better Mentors
For all that women struggle to find mentors to help them achieve results in their careers, research shows that women who do work as mentors make better mentors than the men in their fields. The Pew study on this topic did not delve into the why of this; some reasons could include social training to be more helpful and a better listener, broader experiences in the world of business to draw from and offer advice about, or the point made about women in the Senate, that women are accustomed to needing to band together to get things done.
Improving gender equality in the workplace has been a goal for many years, and although women are still struggling to get a foot in the door, public opinion is swaying. More Americans believe that women should be in leadership roles and acknowledge the difficulties women face getting there.
They believe that having more women in leadership positions will help companies be more flexible and marketable in a global sphere. And they want to see women get there—even if a quarter of them do believe that we’ll get to Mars before half the Fortune 500 companies are headed by women.
Progress is being made, however slowly. Women are making huge gains in the fields of entrepreneurship, which may help to change the attitudes towards women in more traditional workspaces. Gender equality is a boon to the American economy, and should continue to be a driving goal.
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