Women’s History Month is an ideal time to pause to acknowledge some of the many recent advancements women have made as disruptors and change-makers shepherding in critical progress across our nation.
For instance, the incoming 116th U.S. Congress was comprised of a record number of women, and we saw the numbers of African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American, Native American, LGBTQ, and religiously-diverse lawmakers grow on both sides of the aisle this year.
In the lecture halls and classrooms on campuses across the country, more women are earning undergraduate and graduate degrees than ever before. In fact, in 2017, 38% of women between the ages of 25 and 64 held an undergraduate degree, compared to 33% of men, and 14% of women earned a master’s degree or higher, compared to just 12% of men in the same age group, according to the Pew Research Center.
Increasingly, women are breaking down barriers in math, science, technology and engineering fields, which have traditionally been dominated by men. And recently, a University of Texas at Austin mathematics professor, Karen Keskulla Uhlenbeck, was the first woman to receive the equivalent of a Nobel prize in math, the prestigious “Abel Prize.”
Though it’s clear we have much to be proud of, we must also recognize the hard journey ahead as the disparities against women in the workplace remain truly disconcerting.
Only 24 women are CEOs of Fortune 500 CEO companies (~4.8%) and women account for less than a quarter (24%) of senior roles globally. There has been little change in the employee gender pay gap since 2010, and recent research shows that college-educated millennial women are projected to lose more than a million dollars ($1,066,721) over their lifetime because of the gender wage gap.
According to a recent report released by the World Economic Forum, it will take at least another 202 years to receive gender parity in the workplace—for women to receive the same pay and advancement opportunities as men.
In addition, 42% of women in the United States report experiencing gender discrimination in their workplace and 72% of sexual harassment charges filed with the EEOC also include allegations of retaliation.
While many businesses have meant well and sought to increase the number of women in the workplace, it is clear that there is much more work that needs to be done to improve the current workplace environment for women. We need to recognize that inclusive cultures and equitable workplaces do not just happen, they are intentional.
Companies need to review and reconsider their policies and systems to ensure there are not structures in place that inadvertently and unintentionally exclude women and other underrepresented professionals, or make it harder for them to advance.
Maintaining an inclusive and equitable culture is a challenge that more and more companies are going to have to take seriously, especially, for any company that wants to attract and retain top talent. Companies that want to win will ensure that women’s voices are heard and that their contributions in the workforce are recognized.
Recently, NASA announced that its first, all-woman team of astronauts will complete a spacewalk to make upgrades to the International Space Station, only to cancel the mission days later because there is only one space suit on the International Space Station designed to properly fit women. I welcome the day when women in the workplace are no longer simply an afterthought—that’s something definitely worth celebrating.
Mandy Price is the CEO and co-founder of Dallas-based Kanarys, Inc., a web platform that incorporates data and AI to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.