Supporting women at work — and I mean, really supporting — is one of the best things that a society can do for itself.
That’s not an opinion. The Pew Research Center found that an increase in the percentage of women participating in the U.S. workforce was instrumental in raising the standard of living between 1950 and 2000. According to a McKinsey study, one-quarter of the U.S.’s current GDP since 1970 can be attributed to having more women in the workforce.
Then there’s this report from the International Monetary Fund that cites evidence of the positive economic benefits of women realizing their full workforce potential. This Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report that highlights better integration of women into the workforce as a means to drive growth. And this research from the World Economic Forum that supports the argument that reducing gender inequality leads to greater workforce productivity and helps companies and countries remain competitive. You get the picture…
What’s even crazier is that women have such a big and positive impact on the economy despite dealing with gender gaps that both hinder our ability to truly unlock our potential and cost us significant amounts of money over our lifetimes. (We literally wrote a book on the different gender gaps affecting working women today, and how to close them.)
This is What Equality Looks Like
Imagine what would happen if — rather than gender inequality being one of the biggest problems in the U.S. workforce — gender equality was one of its defining traits.
Well, you don’t have to imagine: According to a recent McKinsey report, full gender equality could add up to an estimated $4.3 trillion to the U.S. annual GDP by 2025. That would bring our projected GDP up to $26.3 trillion.
Though, let’s be honest, we have a lot of ground to make up before we can reach full gender equality, let alone by 2025. There’s the pay gap, female underrepresentation — in full-time jobs, high-paying industries, management-level jobs, and the workforce overall — and the reality that women handle the bulk of unpaid labor.
Despite women making up 51% of the U.S.’s working-age population, we’re 47% of the workforce. Ok, that doesn’t seem that bad as far as room for improvement goes. It’s seemingly less frustrating than the gender pay gap, which is worse for many women of color and still worse for women with disabilities.
But then look at who overwhelmingly works full-time jobs vs. part-time jobs, and the 47% becomes less comforting. In 2016, women held 43% of full-time jobs and 64% of part-time jobs. Then look at the gender breakdown of management roles, and the situation is full-fledged frustrating: In 2015, only 39% of management positions were held by women.
What this tells us is that being present in the workforce simply isn’t enough, as many of the opportunities women have involve lower pay, fewer hours, less growth potential. We’re long overdue for change.
Here’s the thing: The business case for gender equality at work has been made over and over and over again. Heck, I even wrote a book (yes, another book) on it. Yet some companies are still dragging their feet and refusing to get with the program. That’s their choice, though I’m betting they’ll realize it’s a losing strategy sooner rather than later. Because as the research mentioned earlier shows, women have a lot of power — and we’re increasingly in a better position to use that power to demand the change we want.
Which makes the #BeBoldforChange theme for International Women’s Day 2017 all the more fitting, especially since advancing women at work is one of the campaign’s main areas of action. But this can’t be just about doing the work on one day a year. It’s about raising the volume on a conversation that women have been having for a long time. (Don’t believe us? Check out this letter to the editor published in The New York Times back in 1869 asking about equal pay.)
So yes, be bold for change today. And tomorrow. And the day after that. And let’s tap into our power every step along the way to make it happen.
What does that power look like? It’s the power of controlling 80% of consumer spending that we can direct toward women-owned businesses and businesses that treat women well. The power to start businesses at a fraction of the cost of back-in-the-day thanks to advances in technology, the growth of the support system around start-ups, and the support of women-focused funders and crowdfunding. The power to unleash the billions of dollars in potential wealth at our fingertips by investing.
This is how we can start to change the narrative around working women and money — because until women are financially equal with men, we will not be equal with men. And instead of hearing story after story about women being underprepared for retirement, more of us can share our experiences of retiring with enough money, starting businesses, and accumulating wealth.
Let’s get equal.
For tips on closing the gender gaps that affect your life, download our free guide “Mind the Gap — and Close It: The Ellevest Guide to Dominating Your Financial Future.”
Information was obtained from third party sources, which we believe to be reliable but not guaranteed for accuracy or completeness.
The information provided should not be relied upon as investment advice or recommendations, does not constitute a solicitation to buy or sell securities and should not be considered specific legal, investment or tax advice.
Investing entails risk including the possible loss of principal and there is no assurance that the investment will provide positive performance over any period of time.