Since 1971, Women’s Equality Day has been celebrated annually in the U.S. on August 26. The celebration falls on the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. This day celebrates the achievements of women’s rights activists and reminds us of the unique daily struggles that women face. Today, the wage gap between men and women still impacts women’s economic power, and gender-based discrimination still plagues workplaces and business transactions.
So, what steps can your association take to help support women in the workforce?
It’s important to educate yourselves as well as your association members. The U.S. passed the Equal Pay Act over half a century ago, but across the board, American women are still dealing with a significant gender wage gap. Undeniably, there has been progress, but the Institute for Women’s Policy Research predicts that equal pay won’t be a reality until 2059. The gender wage gap refers to the difference in pay between women and men. According to the most recent data presented by PayScale, women earn 82 cents for each male dollar earned in 2021.
Empowering your association members with career insights into typical wages, education, skills, job outlooks, overviews, videos, and trends for their profession is a powerful member benefit and can help even the playing field.
Women’s involvement in the labor market has changed in several notable ways over the past several decades. For example, women became much more likely to pursue higher levels of education: from 1970 to 2019, the number of women ages 25 to 64 in the labor force who held a college degree quadrupled. They’re working longer hours and going after higher education in higher numbers. However, there are still big gaps between men and women when it comes to the jobs they have, money they make, and general economic security.
Provide members with personalized career action plans, including the learning, training and experiences required to reach their career goals.
Given the damage that an extended unemployment gap could have for women and the economy overall, stakeholders have an opportunity to take action. Educational support could be provided to women without high-school or college degrees, and skills programs could prepare women for the demands of the labor market in the years ahead. Given the accelerating impact of automation is shifting the mix of jobs and the skills required, having learning opportunities available will be critical for a greater share of jobs in the future.
Give members a description of their desired role and a highlight of the critical skills needed to be successful in that role. Members can then evaluate their current skills and determine what areas they need to focus on in order to succeed.
Nearly 70% of women who said they’ve experienced adverse changes to their daily routines during the pandemic believe these shifts have prevented—or will prevent—them from progressing in their careers. Women now have more responsibility for household chores and childcare, including educational responsibilities so it’s important to create learning opportunities that fit within your members’ daily lives.
Women want to progress in their careers and take on more responsibilities, despite additional constraints imposed by the pandemic. Yet, professional development courses may feel out of reach to many right now, with one in three women saying they are having difficulty balancing their work and life commitments because of pandemic-related shifts to their lives. Associations could introduce creative approaches to learning that allow their members to access the expertise and support they need in flexible and practical ways—for example, curated learning that is relevant to the individual’s development and provided in a way that enables each member to choose when and where to access it.
Design impactful learning experiences for a variety of members by offering content that fits their needs. For example, convert in-person courses to hybrid learning or fully virtual programs. Ensure that each member sees the content that is most relevant to them with course recommendations and preference logic.
Recent research has shown that although women now enter professional schools in numbers nearly equal to men, they are still substantially less likely to reach the highest echelons of their professions. The gap in earnings between men and women has narrowed substantially, but progress has slowed lately, and women working full time still earn about 17% less than men per week. As such, we cannot rule out that gender-related impediments hold back women, including outright discrimination, attitudes that reduce women’s success in the workplace, and an absence of mentors.
Even though most Americans regard women and men as equally competent when it comes to the qualities necessary for leadership roles, women still account for a small percentage of leadership positions. Women currently only hold 6% of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies, and only 2.6% are CEOs of Fortune Global 500 companies.
Create networking opportunities for your members. Connect mentors with mentees to help those you serve grow professionally.
On the other hand, in 2019, the number of women in senior management roles increased to 29% globally and remained the same in 2020. In a 2019 study by the Center for Creative Leadership, women were just as likely as men to be interested in raises, promotions, and leadership development opportunities. They were also just as likely to ask for and accept leadership opportunities. But women in the workplace expressed different reasons for turning down leadership opportunities compared to men. Men typically turned down positions because they didn’t want them (e.g., not interested in the role, didn’t want to relocate, etc.). While some women shared these concerns, women also uniquely mentioned that they weren’t confident in their qualifications, unsure if others would support them, and were worried that they were being set up for failure.
Provide mentoring opportunities to support talented women with a network of champions. You can even help students and early career professionals take their first career steps.
Promote networking and mentorship as ways for your members to learn and grow – but ensure that this is done in ways and at times that accommodate different schedules and needs. For example, only hosting early morning networking breakfasts that clash with responsibilities at home will likely result in some women feeling excluded.
Recent projections estimate that employment for women may not recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2024 – two full years after a recovery for men. Today, unemployment for women remains 1.9% above the pre-pandemic level. Without significant action, there is a real danger that women’s labor force participation could face its steepest sustained decline since World War II. The numbers show a tougher journey for women both during and through the recovery of the pandemic. In September 2020, when schools resumed, many of them with remote learning, 80% of the 1.1 million people who exited the workforce were women. The reopening of schools is inevitable, but the re-entry of working parents who stepped out to care for children is not. Associations could help by ensuring that job openings and support are presented to these women and men in the post-pandemic economy.
Utilize the world’s largest niche job board sales team to get tens of thousands of employers to expose their jobs to your association’s talent pool and get your members hired.
Despite better-than-expected job market gains last month, women are still lagging men in the jobs recovery. One concern is that many of the women who left the U.S. labor force have not merely stopped looking for a job, but now describe themselves as retired. This contrasts with men who are more likely to be taking a pause in their job quest. These will be important trends to monitor during the recovery to grasp the long-term impact the pandemic has had on women’s presence in the workforce.
In a recent poll from Deloitte, respondents stated that the most beneficial action(s) an organization could take to support women in their careers are:
- 46% – Providing leadership, networking and mentoring opportunities
- 40% – Providing more learning development opportunities
- 36% – Providing more skills development opportunities
YM Careers can help your organization provide the job board and career resources women need to succeed. Get in touch today to find out how.