I’ve been thinking a lot about why it’s so difficult to gain gender equality in the workplace.
Just to refresh you on the stats: In 2018, a Pew Research Center study found that women in the U.S. earned 85% of what men did, which means it would take an extra 39 days of work for women to earn what men did in 2018—for doing the same job!
Globally, it’s a mixed picture, and a truly concerning one. “At the present rate of change, it will take nearly a century to achieve parity, a timeline we simply cannot accept in today’s globalized world…” noted Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF), in the company’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020. Every year the report studies a number of countries—153 countries for 2020—on gender-based disparities and tracks progress over time. According to the report, female participation in the labor market is stalling, and in many countries women are still at a disadvantage when accessing credit, land, or financial products—which can further prevent them from starting a company to make a living.
So, like you, I ask myself, “Why?”
I am beginning to believe that implicit bias is a huge part of the problem. Of course, there are many structural issues and outright discrimination, too, but implicit bias is insidious and invisible. We always point out the dangers of making assumptions across cultures and differences in people, and making assumptions about women in the work world gives us clear data points about how damaging it can be.
The importance of closing the gender pay gap isn’t new; I suggest taking a look at the still-pertinent 2018 CBS 60 Minutes interview with CEO Marc Benioff of Saleforce.com. In it, Benioff talks about how even proactive, well-intentioned organizations fall victim to disparity of pay. He states so clearly that gender equality is something that needs to be actively monitored and pursued continually. It’s not a one-and-done situation. And as evidenced by the WEF’s 2020 report, we still have a long way to go.
What’s more, it’s not only pervasive; it’s elusive. Realizing that our assumptions about “how things should be” can be wrong or idiosyncratic is hard work. For example, 2018’s documentary on the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg, RBG, keenly illustrates how our fundamental assumptions about the world can be incorrect—yet can be changed with enormous effort.
But, the effort is worth it. I leave you with a statement from the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2017 that encapsulates why it is so important to keep working on this—a statement that is just as relevant today as it was three years ago:
“As the world moves from capitalism into the era of talentism, competitiveness on a national and on a business level will be decided more than ever before by the innovative capacity of a country or a company. In this new context, the integration of women into the talent pool becomes a must.”