Friday
Jun 27
2014
June 27, 2014

Women in The Workforce: A No Ceilings Conversation

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Over the next ten years, nearly 1 billion women could enter the global economy. The next generation of women in the workforce has enormous potential for women and their families as well as their countries’ economies and our global growth. But the magnitude of women’s contributions tomorrow depends on the actions we take to prepare and empower women today. What can and should we do to ensure we fully tap into this vital source of growth and prosperity? How can we make sure women are not only entering into the work force at rates equal to men but also succeeding at all levels of the corporate ladder equal to their male counterparts? 
 
Over the next ten years, nearly 1 billion women could enter the global economy. The next generation of women in the workforce has enormous potential for women and their families as well as their countries’ economies and our global growth.
 
Recently, I spoke with a diverse group of young women professionals and student leaders at University College Dublin in Ireland to try and answer these questions. This conversation was part of the “No Ceilings Conversation” series, organized to hear directly from girls and women, men and boys about their lives, experiences, and hopes for the future.
 
In Ireland, women earn, on average, 14.4% less than men while the average pay gap across EU countries is 16.4%.  Irish female students outnumber males in business, administration and law, yet there are no women board chairs or CEOs in any of the top publically listed companies in the Irish Stock Exchange.

In the United States, for example, women hold 52% of professional jobs but hold only 17% of board seats on the Fortune 500 companies.
 
Ireland is not alone in these statistics. In the United States, for example, women hold 52% of professional jobs but hold only 17% of board seats on the Fortune 500 companies.
 
Throughout our conversation in Dublin, certain themes continued to emerge ranging from the lack of equal pay, to the lack of women role models in business (as well as in other arenas). These issues have consequences that can leave women in the workforce without the support women need during various points in their careers, particularly when pregnant or coming back from maternity leave.
 
From current university students to lawyers and elected officials, the common refrain was a concern that they would have to make a choice between career and family life. One woman talked about how she’s doubted her own abilities in the past and another talked about her difficult decision to run for city council despite being in the early stages of pregnancy (she ran and was elected).  As is increasingly recognized in the U.S., Ireland and elsewhere, overcoming the barriers to career advancement requires both changes in the structure of the workplace and in cultural norms.
 
In many ways, the conversation about women succeeding in the workforce must begin by making sure girls have the support to develop and nurture their dreams and women leaders as role models.
 
Having women in these roles is so important because it’s really hard to imagine what you can’t see. Women who are willing to break barriers in different sectors are important role models and can help inspire – and yes, support – other women advance and succeed.
 
All over the world, when women can more fully participate in the workforce, economies grow. With the majority of women not able to fully contribute in the labor market living in developed but also in developing countries, imagine what closing the gap could do to alleviate poverty.
 
Recent data projections demonstrate that if the labor force participation rates were equal for women and men, by 2030 annual GDP would grow by 10% in the United States, 16.5% in the Czech Republic, 19% in Japan, and, on average, 12% across all OECD countries.

This data tells us that increasing women in the workforce is not just the right thing to do but the smart thing to do.  
 
This data tells us that increasing women in the workforce is not just the right thing to do but the smart thing to do.  
 
If you want to be a part of this conversation, please take the No Ceilings survey and let us know what issues you think are most important for us to work on and where have we made progress. I hope you will add your voice to this conversation.