Just a few years ago women became 50% of the workforce. Yet according to a new study conducted by Elle Magazine and The Center for American Progress we need to be “leaning in” a little harder in order to get to 100% equal footing with our male counterparts. Take a look at the numbers:
In 2013 we have yet to reach critical mass within the upper echelons of power. These numbers may have moved up a notch since your mother and her mother entered the workforce, but not by much. The reason for these statistics is two fold. First, women feel discriminated against in the workplace, being passed over for men. And secondly, when women decide to start families they are forced to make a choice between the exorbitant cost of childcare services or staying home.
If you read Lean In like millions of other women did. Sheryl Sandberg makes a strong argument for staying in the workplace and not “leaving before you leave”.
But women rarely make one big decision to leave the workforce. Instead, they make a lot of small decisions along the way. A law associate might decide not to shoot for partner because someday she hopes to have a family. A sales rep might take a smaller territory or not apply for a management role. A teacher might pass on leading curriculum development for her school.
Often without even realizing it, women stop reaching for new opportunities. By the time a baby actually arrives, a woman is likely to be in a drastically different place than she would have been had she not leaned back. Before, she was a top performer on par with her peers in responsibility, opportunity and pay. But by not finding ways to stretch herself in the years leading up to motherhood, she has fallen behind.
When she returns to the workplace after her child is born, she is likely to feel less fulfilled, underutilized or unappreciated. At this point, she probably scales her ambitions back even further since she no longer believes that she can get to the top.
Sandberg’s point is a valid one. I can remember chatting with a younger cousin of mine right before she was heading to college to study nursing. I asked her why not medical school? And her reply, “I want to have a family”. At 18 she had already decided to put her ambitions on hold for a family she hadn’t conceived yet. Our current maternity policies also send a clear message to women as well. The U.S. is the only country in western civilization that doesn’t have paid maternity leave. Check out the company we keep in this regard: Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Tonga, Western Samoa, Palau, Liberia and Suriname.
If our maternity policies and pay equity were actually where they should be in the 21st century, with women viewed as and treated equal to men, then our economy would be surging instead of being stagnant. When women succeed, families succeed and entire countries (including ours) will flourish–finally moving women from the bottom to the top!
See more of the 2013 Power Survey here
Here’s a little musical inspiration for your climb to the top: