We have all heard the general notion that women make less money than men. Some think that this issue is not a real problem in 2015, but the sad truth is that on average, women are still paid less than men. In fact, women made 82.1% of a man's earnings in 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Even the overall number of unhappy women has increased, according to one study). It is true that this number is improving, but research shows it hasn't improved enough.

Perhaps one of the reasons that women are still lagging behind their male counterparts is because the United States has a severe shortage of women leaders. At the rate we are going, the number of women leaders will not equal the number of male leaders until 2085.

Let's take a look at some disturbing statistics:

  • Only 14.6% of executive officers in Fortune 500 companies are women;
  • Only 8.1% of top salary earners in Fortune 500 companies are women;
  • Only 4.6% of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies are women; and
  • Only 16.9% of Fortune 500 board seats are occupied by women.

You can see this trend across virtually every type of professional-level position. For example:

  • Women in the legal field make up 45.4% of the legal associates, but only 25% are non-equity partners and only 15% are equity partners.
  • Workers in the health care and social assistance fields are 78.4% women, but only 14.6% of executive officers in the same female-dominated field.
  • Only 34.3% of all physicians and surgeons are women.
  • Only 9% of management positions in the information technology field are held by women.

Meanwhile, women earn 60% of all undergraduate and all master's degrees. They earn nearly half of all higher education degrees in medicine, law, and business and management, but the total number of women leaders does not make sense, especially given their educational qualifications.

So Why Should This Matter to You?

Some would argue that we should promote women out of fairness, but if you're promoting based on qualifications, how could that be unfair? Other people argue that the problem is with women, that they're choosing family over their careers; however, if your senior leadership team could conduct all your meetings in the men's room, it's high time to look at your company's policies. Promoting women to leadership positions goes beyond fairness or right and wrong--simply put, it is good for business.

A recent study by Mintigo, an industry leader in enterprise predictive marketing, explains that organizations with women leaders generally have greater revenues per employee than organizations led by men. Another study by the Anita Borg Institute explains that Fortune 500 companies that have at least three women directors have increased sales, increased return on equity, and increased return on invested capital.

Experts generally agree that increased diversity (both race and gender) is good for business. It helps businesses relate to their customers better, and increases innovation within the business. Adding a variety of perspectives allows for better problem solving and product development.

How Can We Get More Women Leaders?

Although women earn a significant percentage of college-level and professional degrees, the number of women who hold leadership positions still lags far behind men who hold leadership positions. So, how do we fix this? Here are a few suggestions that you can begin implementing today.

  1. A little encouragement can go a long way. The next time you hear a woman considering applying for a leadership position, give her an extra push. Some women have the terrible habit of diminishing their abilities, so letting women co-workers know that they can do the job will help them gain the needed confidence. Everyone occasionally needs a little nudge to have the courage to put themselves out there.
  2. Women should support (not compete with) one another. Men seem to have this network of other men that will help when called upon for career advancement--an "Old Boys Network." Women often lack a similar network. Women should make efforts to build this type of network through friendship and cooperation. The tendency to think that there can only be one woman in a leadership role is counterproductive--directly competing with other women is not an effective way to encourage women leadership.
  3. Provide women with the resources they need to succeed. For some women, their family life and other commitments make them think that they do not have time to take on a leadership role. Resources such as childcare or help with family planning (just to mention a couple of common concerns) will help curb this anxiety. Current management should brainstorm how they can help women obtain the resources they need to apply for and maintain management roles. Management may want to directly ask their female employees what they need to determine the best resources to encourage women's leadership goals.

The lack of women leaders in the United States is a serious problem. Women leaders help businesses succeed in virtually every aspect--from revenues to customer relations--so companies need to take action to encourage women to become leaders in the workplace. Start with these small steps, and big improvements will be close behind.

Find this useful? If so, sign up for Ariana's bi-monthly update for more articles to keep your mojo flowing!

Published on: Jan 29, 2015
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.