Happy Women’s History Month!
Whew, does it really only happen once a year? We feel like it was just yesterday that we were toasting to some of our favorite feminists of 2021… and here we are a year later!
While we love giving props to our contemporaries, we also find that March is a good time to take a look at where we’ve come in the history of women in the workplace (and of course, where we’re headed).
Let’s take a look at how women have dominated workforces since the dawning of time — and what we can do in the present to ensure companies continue to diversify and close that gender pay gap.
History of Women in the Workplace
Most of us were taught that women didn’t really enter the workforce in the U.S. until World War I or World War II, thanks to the men deployed overseas and wartime boosts in jobs. But that just isn’t so.
Women have been working outside of the home — well, since we had a culture and society outside of our own families.
18th and 19th Century Working Women
We were the first beer brewers (Google, “women beer brewers witches,” — you won’t regret it), we made up the majority of the clothesmaking workforce (and led the fight for unionization in the early 1900s), and we were obstetricians until about 1910).
WWI and WWII
World War II and World War II marked a new era for women, one where the “gentler sex” was welcomed with open arms into the roles previously dominated by men.
We worked in construction, lumber, and trucking. Heck, we even played Major League baseball. And when the wars were over? We weren’t ready to head back home full time again, either.
The 2016 movie Hidden Figures told the true story of the black female mathematicians who worked for NASA.
The 1960s marked a turning point for women in the workplace, as the Equal Pay Act of 1963 was signed into law by John F. Kennedy. Finally, legislation demanding equal pay, regardless of gender!
While this was a major step toward gender equality in the workplace on paper, we know that it’s far from perfect. Back in 1960, women earned only $0.61 on the dollar that men received. These days, we do make a lot more than $0.61 on the dollar; but that doesn’t mean companies are shelling out the same salaries for women as men.
Women’s Lib Movement: 1970s – 2000s
By 1970, nearly half of women in the U.S. over the age of 16 participated in the workforce. Sadly, that number grew to only 61% by 2000.
By 2018, women were making $0.82 for every dollar men made; and it’s only worse for women of color. Black women are paid only $0.62, Native American women are paid only $0.57, and Latinas are paid only $0.54.
COVID-19 Pandemic: A Turning Point
The COVID-19 pandemic created another turning point for women in the workplace.
In the spring of 2020, about 3.5 million women (specifically mothers) left the workforce, either through layoffs or leaves of absences (and some simply quit altogether). In October of 2021, CNBC reported, “nearly two in three women who left the workforce during COVID plan to return.”
The kicker? Most are planning a career shift, intending to work in a STEM-related field.
Future of Women at Work
Clearly, we’re not where we need to be when it comes to the gender gap. It’s estimated that we won’t have closed the gender gap until the year 2059 (and the data that suggests this year was pulled before the pandemic).
Benefits of Hiring More Women
There are numerous benefits that come with hiring more women.
According to the Harvard Business Review, “A diverse workforce signals an attractive work environment for talent.” The same article also stated, “A recent survey found that 61% of women look at the gender diversity of the employer’s leadership team when deciding where to work. The takeaway is the most talented individuals go to places that do better with diversity, and this may be what is driving diverse firms in certain contexts to outperform their peers.”
One of the main benefits of hiring more women is simply that you’ll attract more talent — and more talented individuals.
How to Diversify Your Company
Diversifying your company is easier said than done (and it’s not just a workplace trend, either).
We can’t just wave a wand and make any workplace a place where women suddenly thrive. If women aren’t thriving in your company, there’s a good chance that your company culture is to blame.
Invest in Women
You can’t just hire more women, throw them to the wolves, and expect them to succeed. You need to spend time investing in their success — in the same way that you’d invest in any man’s success.
Offer Competitive Benefits
Women need competitive benefits now more than ever.
Competitive benefits that many women are craving include flexible hours, remote or hybrid working models, childcare (through employers or reimbursements), and better work/life balance. All of these benefits can help increase the number of talented women in your company.
A lot of companies are getting more and more transparent these days — especially with pay rates.
Instead of keeping salaries hush-hush, why not make everyone’s salary transparent? One of the main reasons the gender pay gap has stayed so cavernous is because companies haven’t been transparent about their pay rates.
Making salaries (including starting pay, bonuses, benefits, and pay raise structures) transparent could show you’re committed to treating women as equals to their male counterparts.
Consider Remote Working Models
Even though children over the age of five are eligible for the COVID vaccine, younger children still remain vulnerable, and many families that aren’t eligible for vaccines will continue to remain vulnerable (even after vaccines are approved for all ages).
Allowing employees to work from home (even only a few days a week) can help women balance work and life a little easier.
And if you need help finding quality candidates? Rise can help. Work with top women in their fields and diversify your company from the ground up.