The number of women in the workforce is increasing and wage growth is following suit, according to the ADP Workforce Vitality Report (WVR). This is a trend that's been noted for the past six quarters. After years of working toward gender equality in the workplace, women finally appear to be outpacing men.
The Reasons There Are More Women in the Workplace
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the share of women in the labor force is projected to increase between 2014 and 2024, with men's share of the labor force expected to decrease during that period. Several things could account for this increase of women in the labor market, including:
- Women now earn the majority of college degrees and expect to have careers, as The Washington Post notes
- Women have greater control over reproduction and are delaying parenthood or choosing not to have children, lessening the difficulties of balancing work and family demands, notes Business Insider
- Whether single or in partnerships, many women are working out of economic necessity
While women are snagging more jobs than men, they may not necessarily be of the same quality. Women tend to work fewer hours, many working part-time or temporary jobs, and the wage gap still looms large, with women earning about 80 percent of every dollar their male counterparts bring home, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research. Child care or eldercare demands may pull women from full-time employment or working altogether. Other factors, such as stress, quality of life and employee engagement issues may tend to push them away, as well.
Challenges to Women's Advancement
With changing workforce demographics, businesses are finding a wealth of qualified women to recruit. As businesses work toward gender diversity, however, it's critical to recognize the challenges women face and to create policies that encourage them to remain in the workforce for the long haul. McKinsey & Company reports that women's advancement is slowed because it's an uneven playing field, there's a leadership gap in senior roles and there's low participation in employee programs made to help work-life balance.
Flexible work schedules are certainly a move in the right direction. Job sharing, telecommuting, flexible work hours and the ability to take paid or unpaid time off for family needs can certainly help employees of both genders balance life demands. But offering these options may not be enough. It's critical that workers know they won't be stigmatized for using them.
A culture of inclusion will not come without intentional effort at the highest levels of the business, but one that shows benefits for all involved parties. Women can benefit through greater opportunity and ability to impact the business. Men can benefit through expanded definitions of leadership and greater potential to achieve work-life balance. And above all, organizations can benefit through an engaged and motivated workforce.