By Paula Damiano
National Association for Female Executives —
Hugh Hefner’s recent death brought my thoughts back to Gloria Steinem’s undercover gig as a Playboy Bunny. In some ways we’ve come so far—but in other ways, we’re still battling our way to better positions, wages and working conditions. It’s the 21st century—yet in many aspects, it’s the bad old days when it comes to women and work.
I respectfully present the following items as food for thought:
Harassment was legally recognized as discrimination in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Because of harassment, women are nine times more likely than men to quit their jobs, five times more likely to transfer and three times more likely to lose their jobs. Harassment may have been outlawed in 1964, but in 2017 it is alive and well—consider the $13 million that Fox News spent on settling complaints against Bill O’Reilly, or even more recently, the explosive report that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein paid off sexual harassment accusers for decades. A 2015 survey by Cosmopolitan found that one in three women has been sexually harassed at work. Approximately 15,000 cases are brought to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission every year—and many, many more go unreported.
2. Career choices are still circumscribed.
It starts with media representations, family, friends and high school guidance counselors. Economists call it “occupational sorting.” In subtle and not-so-subtle ways, young girls are steered into fields with lower earnings possibilities. U.S. Census figures show that women make up only 26 percent of highly paid chief executives, but 71 percent of low-paid cashiers.
3. Women still haven’t made it to the top of the medical profession.
Women are 80 percent of all healthcare workers. But according to an article in Forbes, the medical and social work professions have the fourth largest gender pay gap in the U.S., as women are “sorted” into nursing and other assisting roles. At the top of the profession, females now make up half of all medical school graduates. But male doctors can expect to earn an average of 8 percent more than their female counterparts. (Being white matters, too–adding an extra $60,000 to your paycheck.) There is only one female CEO at the 56 S&P 500 healthcare companies.
In the current (115th) U.S. Congress, women make up just 19 percent of the House of Representatives. Only 21 of our 100 Senators are female. According to Catalyst, just 4 of the current 50 state governors are women. Places as disparate as Croatia, Nepal, Taiwan, and Liberia all have elected female presidents. But here in the United States of America, we’re still waiting.
5. And in tech.
American girls and women are huge users of technology, but are severely underrepresented among its creators. The National Center for Women & Information Technology reports that women earn 57 percent of all undergraduate degrees today—but only 18 percent of those degrees are in computer and information sciences. Hopefully, the recent interest in STEM programs will change those numbers soon.
6. Women are still a small percentage of the corporate ranks.
A joint study by the Peterson Institute and EY revealed that more female bosses equals higher profits—companies with at least 30 percent female leaders had net profit margins up to six percentage points higher than companies with no women in the top ranks. But a CNNMoney analysis shows that women hold just 5 percent of the CEO jobs in the S&P 500—and says “the pipeline of rising stars behind them is thin.”
As a former female Senator put it, women in the workforce isn’t a women’s issue. “We can’t afford to leave talent on the sidelines,” she stated. “We not only shortchange [women] and their dreams, but we shortchange our country and our future.” Keep dreaming—and working. Our day will come.