At this point women make up 44% of the US workforce, yet their average wages are only 77% of those of men. The pay gap has narrowed since the 60s when women began to enter the workforce in growing numbers. Women's level of educational attainment has now caught up with men and at the level of college graduates surpass it.
There are a number of areas in which substantial progress has occurred in closing the gap. About 40% of all positions classified as managers are held by women. 36% of all businesses are owned by women. This is the source for these statistics.
However, these aggregate statistics mask the way that even with progress, women's workforce participation is still highly skewed in terms pf occupational level and type of industry. The glass ceiling that has kept women and minorities from advancing to senior management positions is well known. There now some notable exceptions but they are still a small minority of such positions. What I want to focus on here is the issue of how women's employment is concentrated in certain industries and poorly represented in others.
Retail and non-financial services are the industry groupings in which women have high levels of employment. Of course a majority of the jobs in those industries represent such low paying activities as fast food workers and retail clerks. Women do represent a significant portion of the managers and business owners in those fields. Those are in fact the industries where most of the advancement for women has occurred. These are also industries with low growth potential. It is the industries in the fields of science and technology where opportunities for the future and the best compensation is to be found. These are the places where women are the least likely to be found.
I've found some good articles recently on gender in two particular areas of what are known as STEM fields, Silicon Valley type information technology and engineering.
There has been increasing pressure on the larger Silicon Valley companies who are raking in the money and stashing it in off shore tax havens, to be more forth coming with information about the make up of their work force. In the technical positions where the opportunities are. This is the situation for Google tech workers. It is pretty comparable to the other major firms.
The standard complaint of Google and other companies is that women and non-Asian minorities just aren't in the pipeline that leads to tech jobs. They think that it would be unreasonable to hold them responsible for doing anything to change that.
Working for a big corporation is not the only way that people get ahead in tech. Startups have always played a prominent role in the industry and most of the major companies started out that way. Other people have gotten a hot idea off the ground and then sold it to one of the big companies for big bucks. Pulling that off usually requires attracting investment capital. The venture capital firms operate in the same culture as the big companies.
Shortly after Kathryn Tucker started RedRover, an app that showcases local events for kids, she pitched the idea to an angel investor at a New York tech event. But it didn’t go over well. When she finished her pitch, the investor said he didn’t invest in women.There is progress in women being able to attract venture capital, but the successes are more likely to come in the traditional women oriented industries.
When she asked why, he told her. “I don’t like the way women think,” he said. “They haven’t mastered linear thinking.” To prove his point, he explained that his wife could never prioritize her to-do lists properly. And then, as if he was trying to compliment her, he told Tucker she was different. “You’re more male,” he said.
Tucker didn’t need to hear any more. “I said, ‘Thanks very much,’ walked out, and never spoke to him again,” she recalled earlier this year, as part of a panel discussion on “fundraising while female” at the annual Internet Week conference in New York.
The topic of women’s limited access to highly competitive venture capital (VC) dollars commonly finds its way into conversations about the state of women’s roles as economic players in the economy (Forbes, Businessweek, NYTimes).However this is a breakdown of where those deals with women entrepreneurs are happening.
While there are currently a lopsided number of VC rounds going to companies founded by men, PitchBook data show that companies with at least one female founder (women-founded) have begun to hit a stride, increasing their share of venture rounds every year for the last 10 years. In 2004, women-founded companies represented a paltry 4% of all U.S. venture deals. Now, such companies represent a record 13% of VC deals through the first half of 2013.
Workers with skills in science, engineering, math and technology are among the most in demand and highest paid of any sector. They are seen as key drivers of innovation, problem-solving and economic growth, who will help shape the future.
And most of them are men.
While that news is hardly shocking, a new National Science Foundation report released on Saturday about why so few women go into engineering, or stay in the field, highlights a key reason: a workplace culture of incivility toward women.
“I wouldn’t call it a hostile environment, but it’s definitely chilly,” said Nadya Fouad, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, who presented the results to the American Psychological Association in a talk entitled “Leaning In, But Getting Pushed Back (and Out.)”
Fouad and her colleagues surveyed more than 5,000 women who had graduated from some of the top universities with engineering degrees over the past six decades and found that 40 percent had either quit the field or never entered the profession in the first place.
For more than two decades, women have accounted for about 20 percent of all engineering degrees. Yet fewer than 11 percent of all engineers are women. And this despite a massive funding effort to get more people into STEM fields – $3.4 billion in federal funds for STEM education since fiscal 2010, with $13 million targeted directly at women.
“It’s not about ‘fixing the women’ – making them more confident or anything. It’s really about the climate in the workplace,” Fouad said. “We found that even women who are staying consider leaving because they don’t have supervisor support. They don’t have training and development opportunities. And their colleagues are incivil to them, belittle them, talk behind their backs and undermine them.”The usual response of male managers to studies such as this is to claim that women workers aren't being subjected to demands and requirements any different from those of male workers. They see women as unwilling/unable to stand up to the stresses of a competitive work environment. However this doesn't really add up when you look at the wider world. The fields in which women are making advancement as managers and owners demand commitment and the ability to deal with the stress of competition. Women are clearly able to master the technical skills required to complete an academic training program. Is it just possible that when women are in a minority situation they get treated differently than their male counterparts?
On top of that are inflexible workplace cultures that demand long hours for no clear work-related reasons.
Drawing from responses from women engineers who were satisfied in their workplaces and were advancing in their careers, Fouad makes four recommendations:
• Recognize the problem. That women aren’t leaving just because they want to spend time with their children. They’re leaving because of the difficult workplace climate and lack of opportunity to advance.
• Change starts from the top. Managers must create a culture that doesn’t tolerate incivility and condescension toward women, and respects all employees’ work-life obligations.
• Implement system-wide changes. Invest in professional training and development and make clear how people advance, with fair criteria. In other words, break up the ‘old boy network’ for getting ahead.
• Implement role-level changes. Communicate clearly what needs to be done, how and by when.