Women are equally represented in corporate America and are more educated than their male counterparts, but very few women fill leadership positions in S&P500
Here’s some quick stats:
- Women make up just over half of the United States’ population and earn 60% of all bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the country.
- Women hold 52% off all “professional” jobs, yet when you look at companies in the S&P 500, female representation declines swiftly as you move into top leadership positions.
- Women make up 37% of mid-level managers in these companies, 21% of board seats and just over 5% of CEOs.
According to Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of the book: Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,one of the biggest limitations keeping women out of upper management is home life. According to data from Pew Research, women spend approximately twice as much time on childcare as men do. When asked if they thought parenting interfered with career advancement. 41% of women agreed, while only 20% of men did. Although it is very common for both parents to work in a household, the majority of the work at home is still done by women. Many women are, essentially working two full-time jobs, which makes the rigors of a leadership position much more difficult.
While men, even fathers, may be accepting of the long work hours and frequent travel that is often a condition for advancement, many women are unable to make the same time and emotional commitment to their career even though they are more than qualified and interested in holding these upper-management roles.
In her Ted Talk, Sheryl Sandberg discusses the phenomenon of women leaning out. Many women in the workplace begin to think about the consequences of starting a family even before they get pregnant. If their current position is stressful and hectic now, what will it be like as a mother of a newborn? A toddler? Many women thinking of starting families start to “lean out”, turning down promotions or big projects to prepare for when they will become mothers. Sandberg referenced one young women who was starting to lean out in preparation for the future who didn’t even have a boyfriend at the time.
Disney won the Linkage Executive Advocate for Women in Leadership Award and continues to show their commitment to fostering women leaders with diversity initiatives and women’s employee resource groups. Just recently, Cathleen Taff, was promoted to Head of Distribution, which is the first woman to hold this role at Disney and joined a very short list of female leaders in this field.
Companies like PepsiCo and Disney are working towards a future with more women in leadership, but there is still much to be done by companies across the country. One of the most important things any company, division or team can do to support women leadership is to create a culture that supports work-life balance.
Work-life balance offers a number of benefits including; more productive employees, lower turnover rates and higher employee engagement. It is also an important element in encouraging women to embrace leadership roles and career advancement. With many women being responsible for the majority of childcare and housework, a company culture that promotes early mornings, unrealistic deadlines, late hours, response to emails 24/7 and discouraging time off is not conducive to supporting women in the workforce. By encouraging employees to work only during normal work hours, to unplug when they’re at home and to use their vacation days, women will be more likely to “lean in” and welcome the challenge of leadership roles with their male counterparts.
Many Fortune 500 companies, have created Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to help give women resources, community and a voice. By encouraging these groups and making them more visible both internally and externally, companies can support women seeking leadership through parental leave and work-life balance policies, mentorship programs and leadership training. A survey of women participating in ERG’s in October 2017 identified the following statistics:
- 85% of respondents said that participating in their ERG benefited them and their career.
- 70% said that their ERGs had actually helped to create changes in policy at work.
- 55% of the women surveyed said their women’s network helped improve parental leave benefits.
- 53% said their group advocated for better and more flexible work schedules or vacation policies.
- 44% said their women’s ERG helped establish a mentorship or sponsorship program at work.
Numerous companies are implementing McGhee Productivity Solutions’ Take Back Your Life! program which offers training in time management and prioritization that supports work-life balance. It specifically uses Microsoft Outlook tools to create a productivity system to help quell the stress, overwhelm and chaos that cause many women to lean out. Women who have gone through this program report feeling more balanced and in control of their work day.
There are many positive examples of companies of all sizes working towards increasing women in leadership roles, but there is still much work to be done to change the fact that 95% of CEO titles are held by men. Companies need to be willing to invest in their female employees and make the needed cultural changes required to support women in leadership.