We are now three to four decades into studying the differences between women and men. Much has been learned, but little has changed about the way the “male system” dominates the business world. Gender is the most powerful determinant of how a person views the world and everything in it, more powerful than age, income, race, or geography.
What else has changed over the last three to four decades as well are all the dynamic facts around gender roles, woman empowerment, college graduation rates, work force participation, consumer spending, etc.
Here are six true statements about the current status of women in the workforce:
FACT 1: Women are now the majority of the workforce in the USA.
This occurred in the first half of 2010 for the first time in American history, and now women make up 51% of the professional workers in the USA. 70% of American women with children under 18 are earning a paycheck while raising their children. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women now hold 51.4% of managerial and professional jobs – up from 26.1% in 1980. Women are 54% of all accountants and hold about half of all banking and insurance jobs. Women are about one-third of the physicians and 45% of the associates in law firms – and both percentages are rising fast. And, in the EU, women have filled 6 million of the 8 million new jobs since 2000. Read more: 9 Tips For Full-Time Moms Re-Entering The Workforce
FACT 2: Women now earn almost 60% of university degrees in the USA and Europe.
Women’s education is changing to more marketable subjects. In 1966, 40% received a BA specializing in education and 2% in business and management. Now its 12% education and 50% business and management. Women earn only 20% of the degrees in engineering and computer science. In the USA, women earn 57% of the bachelor’s degrees and 59% of the master’s degrees. Women are 51% of those enrolled in medical school and nearly half of those in law school. Read more: The Three Rs of Business Success
FACT 3: In the USA, women make or influence 80% of consumer spending decisions.
Women purchases extend way beyond food, health, and beauty. Yes, women do purchase 65% of apparel. But they also purchase 52% of all new vehicles, including trucks, and influence 80% of those purchases. They purchase 45% of consumer electronics and influence 61%. And women purchase 80% of family health care decisions, 70% of travel decisions, 55% of wine, and 20% of homes (and influence 91%). 90% of women participate in decisions that affect their household’s retirement and investment accounts. Read more: Talking About Money
FACT 4: Only 3% of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women.
Unfortunately, even though women’s influence has grown in other areas of business and management, the percentage and number of Fortune 500 CEOs has never risen much above 3%. We know many of the names – Meg Whitman at eBay, Carly Fiorina at H-P, Anne Mulcahy and Ursula Burns at Xerox, Indra Nooyi at PepsiCo, etc. Female CEOs may be rare in America’s largest companies, but they are highly prized. Last year, they out earned their male counterparts by 43% on average. Read more: Tips to Get More Women in the Boardroom: Video featuring Sarah Palisi Chapin, CEO and former Pepsico Executive
FACT 5: Women are increasingly opting to become entrepreneurs rather than languish in stalled careers.
Organizations need to focus on retaining the female half of the workforce to keep the talent pipeline full at all levels and avoid the enormous costs of retraining and recruiting new replacement talent. Over 75% of workers say their company has implemented gender-parity initiatives, such as flex-work programs and mentorship, but many feel these programs are not effective. Only 48% of the men polled feel achieving gender-parity should be a critical business imperative while 84% of the women do. However, in the past decade the number of privately owned companies started by women in the USA has increased twice as fast as the number owned by men. Women-owned companies employ more people than the largest 500 companies combined. The U.S. Census Bureau surveys show a 20% increase in women-owned businesses in 2007 over 2002, now accounting for 7.8 million non-farm U.S. businesses. California, Texas, and New York are the top three states. And in China, women own more than 40% of private businesses. Read more: Lessons from Enterprising Women
FACT 6: Women make 13% to 23% less than men.
While this is very hard to measure as there are many variables from industry, occupation, profession, hours worked, etc., the pay gap has changed very little since 2001. Some of this gap is due to motherhood. Childless women in corporate America earn almost as much as men. Mothers with partners earn less and single mothers earn much less. Female programmers make 93% as much as their male counterparts. Female physicians only make 61% as much as the male physicians. Read more: Bridge over the River Pay-Gap
- “The End of Men” by Hanna Rosin, printed in the Atlantic 7/10
- “The Current Situation” from The Economist 12/09
- “Why She Buys” by Bridgett Brennan
- “Bearded Ladies” by Tara Patel in Bloomberg
- “Gender Parity Initiatives Are Just Not Working” by Bain & Company, Davos, 1/10
- “Not All Differences in Earnings Are Created Equal” by Carl Bialik, printed in The Wall Street Journal 4/10/10
- “New Census Data Reinforces the Economic Power of Women-Owned Businesses in the U.S. Says NAWBO” press release by NAWBO, 7/22/10
Marsha Clark is an independent consultant who founded her own company in 2000 focusing on leadership and executive development. She offers a variety of programs, including workshops and multi-month leadership development programs for executives and high-potentials.