Women and the Economy
Women and the Economy
EMILY’s List, which has worked to elect pro-choice Democratic women into office for over twenty years, has been at the forefront of the fight for women’s inclusion in the workforce. Whether EMILY’s List women in office are co-sponsoring equal pay legislation, standing up for the Family and Medical Leave Act, or fighting to end gender bias in science, technology or math programs, these women have continuously worked to promote women’s involvement in our economy.
Of course, there are still hurdles to overcome. Women still are not represented in large numbers as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and continue to face a wage gap with their male colleagues. While it is critical to understand what challenges might lay ahead for women in leadership and corporate positions, assessing the progress that has already been made is equally important.
The evidence is clear: when women are in top leadership positions, businesses win. A study conducted by Catalyst found that companies with the highest representation of women in top management positions fared better financially than companies with the fewest women at the top. A Pepperdine University study found that the profits at Fortune 500 companies that aggressively promoted women were 34 percent higher than industry medians. Companies are looking to women leaders as their ticket to success—and for good reason. By 2018, women-owned businesses are expected to create one third of the 15.3 million new jobs anticipated. In 1999, Rep. Grace Napolitano spoke on the House floor in support of the Women’s Business Center Sustainability Act, legislation that would increase funding for Women’s Business Centers, which train and counsel women interested in starting their own businesses. She said, “These new businesses are so vitally important to the United States economy which is now currently providing more jobs than Fortune 500 companies, if one can envision that. Women–owned businesses now provide more jobs than the Fortune 500 companies. These nearly 8 million women –owned businesses provide jobs for 18.5 million people and generate $3.1 trillion, with a T, we have heard it before, I want to reiterate it, in revenue for this country.”
Women-Owned Small Businesses are on Track to Create One Third of New Jobs by 2018. In 2011, Forbes reported, “Women are becoming the nation's job-creation engine, starting small businesses and stimulating new jobs at a rate that outdistances their male counterparts and disproportionately exceeds their current contribution to U.S. employment. A newly published report by The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute projects that female-owned small businesses, now just 16% of total U.S. employment, will be responsible for creating one-third of the 15.3 million new jobs anticipated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics by 2018. Specifically, the Institute expects that women who own small businesses will create from 5 million to 5.5 million new jobs across the U.S. by 2018, and in the process transform the workplace of tomorrow into a far more inclusive, horizontally managed environment.” [Forbes, 1/12/10]
Women Account for Nearly Half of the Labor Force. In 1900, there were 5.1 million working women in the United States, which accounted for 18 percent of the labor force. In 2009, there were 66.2 million working women, which accounted for 46.7 percent of the labor force. [National Committee for Pay Equity, 2010]
Distribution of Men and Women in Specific Professions Decreased Over Time. According to the National Committee for Pay Equity, the distribution of men and women among specific occupations has decreased.
- “The percentage of technical writers who were female increased from 36% to 50.4% between 1985 and 2009.”
- “Women pharmacists increased from 30% in 1985 to 49.3% in 2009.”
- “The percentage of female chemists increased from 11% in 1985 to 30% in 2009.”
- “In 2008, women accounted for 32.4% of all lawyers, 32.2% of all physicians and surgeons, and 68.8% of all psychologists.” [National Committee for Pay Equity, 2010]
Businesses Are Making Women’s Leadership a Priority—A Proven Marker of Success. Forbes reported that while women are still very much needed in top leadership positions in business, some companies are choosing to make it a priority. For example, Deutsche Telekom announced it wanted 30 percent of its top positions filled by women in the next four years. “Companies are not setting these targets arbitrarily--there is a strong business case for them to do so. There has been a great deal of research in this area which suggests the value of having gender-diverse management teams. For example, companies that have more than three women in management positions tend to have better return on equity and assets than do those with fewer women. They also tend to score higher on organizational effectiveness criteria. Equally, women board members tend to be very well-prepared for meetings, which raises the benchmark for others. This subsequently leads to better discussions and better decisions.” [Forbes, 2/18/11]
- Businesses With Higher Representation of Women Do Better Financially. A study conducted by Catalyst found that companies with the highest representation of women in top management positions fared better financially than companies with the fewest women at the top. [White House Project, Women in Leadership, 11/2009, accessed 3/15/12]
- Profits of Fortune 500 Companies that Promoted Women were 34% Higher. A Pepperdine University study found that the profits at Fortune 500 companies that aggressively promoted women were 34 percent higher than industry medians. [White House Project, Women in Leadership, 11/2009, accessed 3/15/12]