Celebrating Women’s History Month and the Fight for Gender Parity

March 6, 2018 Deanna Hartley

Though the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have gained widespread support in recent months, the fight for gender equality and embracing tenets of diversity and inclusion is not new. And though we can point to some progress, there is more work to be done. Women’s History Month serves as a reminder to celebrate the accomplishments of women around the world and the milestones we’ve achieved as a result of our collective efforts, with the acknowledgement that we need to take steps to strive for more.

More specifically, on March 8, we commemorate International Women’s Day. According to the official website: “International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.”

Hollywood is just one industry that has become particularly vocal — from fighting against sexual harassment to wage discrepancies to unequal opportunities that adversely impact women. Frances McDormand even went so far as to cite the “inclusion rider” clause in her Oscar acceptance speech this week.

According to the Washington Post: “An inclusion rider is a stipulation that the cast and/or the crew in a film reflect real demographics, including a proportionate number of women, minorities, LGBTQ individuals and people with disabilities. Big-name actors who have leverage in negotiations could put this stipulation into their contracts and drastically change representation in film.”

The roaring success of female-led blockbuster hits such as “Wonder Woman” and “Beauty and the Beast” supports the premise that not only is increasing representation and opening up doors of opportunity the right thing to do, but that it can be financially lucrative.

Gender Diversity Beyond Hollywood

Even in the corporate world, research shows a correlation between gender diversity and financial performance.

According to a recent article citing research based on companies in Britain: “Between 2011 and 2015, the most gender diverse quarter of companies were 20 [percent] more likely than the least diverse to have above average financial performance, a report by management consultants McKinsey found. Dame Vivian Hunt, who runs McKinsey’s [U.K.] business, said: ‘The correlation between diversity and financial performance is clear across different sectors and geographies: more diverse teams equals significant financial outperformance.’”

The article goes on to say that starting next month, U.K. companies with 250 employees or more will be expected to publish the gap between what they pay men and women.

Are We Closing the Wage Gap?

In the U.S., a growing number of states are enforcing salary history ban laws that prohibit employers from asking about a candidate’s salary history that may include compensation, benefits, wages, etc. during the application or interview process. At a basic level, it’s intended to mitigate and eventually eradicate the systemic problem where certain individuals get stuck within a pay bracket that’s near impossible to break out of. In addition to legislation, salary transparency and the public discourse on these types of issues are gradually chipping away at unequal pay for equally qualified individuals who are expected to perform similar jobs.

But when it comes to both salary and career advancement, today’s women expect less. A 2017 CareerBuilder survey found that on average women expect their highest career salary to be $60,000 less than that of their male counterparts. The highest salary men said they expect to reach during their careers is around $137,000, while women anticipate reaching around $79,000 on average.

Furthermore, only 20 percent of women expect to reach a six-figure salary, compared to 44 percent of men. Only 4 percent of women expect to reach the C-suite, while 22 percent of women expect to remain at or reach entry-level employment.

The same research shows that a third of women (34 percent) do not think they earn the same pay as the opposite sex in their organization who have similar experience and qualifications, while men are not as convinced about the wage gap, with a whopping 82 percent saying they earn the same pay.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research, or IWPR, suggests that, if this current trend keeps up, women will not achieve “pay parity” in the U.S. until the year 2059 — another 41 years. Minority women will have to wait even longer.

A report for the World Economic Forum estimates that it will take an additional 75 years — a total of 116 years — for the whole world to achieve gender pay equality.

As we commemorate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, let’s look for opportunities to close the gender gaps that continue to plague us — in our workplaces and in our communities. Gender diversity and parity should never be a check-the-box initiative, but rather an area in which we continually strive to make progress.

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