You see that quote at the top of my blog homepage “Conditions for all women will improve when there are more women in leadership roles giving strong and powerful voice to their needs and concerns” (Sheryl Sandberg; activist, Facebook executive and author of the MUST READ book: Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead)? I think we can all agree on this point. It is so important that we understand how important the contributions of women in the workforce are and especially those women in leadership roles that have the greatest ability to create positive change in organizations.
There has long been debate (and unfortunately conflict) related to whether women should work or stay home (after they have had kids). Go back to the 90s where author, writer/blogger Danielle Crittenden wrote in a post in Boundless.org:
“We want the noise and embrace of family around us; we want, at the end of our lives, to look back and see that what we have done amounts to more than a pile of pay stubs, that we have loved and been loved, and brought into this world life that will outlast us.”
In response to Crittenden’s commentary, Author Linda Hirshman (2006) retorted:
“If women take a lesson, they will learn that using their capacities for speech and reason, engaging in political life with other adults, having social and economic independence and giving more to society than they take cannot be reduced to “a pile of pay stubs.”
The above illustrates the conflict even amongst women regarding the importance of women’s participation in the workforce. Often women who choose to stay in the workforce are seen as not fulfilling family responsibilities while those who exit are seen as not meeting their full potential. We need to support each other and not judge each other, but at the end of the day, we can never reduce or minimize the value of women’s workforce contributions. The research regarding women’s positive influence on organizational outcomes (including financial outcomes) is overwhelming.
Research examining the link between women board directors and corporate performance for example, clearly show that companies with more women board directors and in executive roles experience higher financial returns, and this holds across all industries. Additionally and perhaps more importantly, research shows that exiting the workforce has serious consequences on women’s financial stability over the long term, even once they have returned to the workforce.
We have so much to contribute and much work to be done in terms of women’s equality. Although things have improved for women in the workforce with women share of the overall workforce being around 50% (on par with men), the numbers plummet at the highest leadership levels with women representing only 14% of executive positions and less than 8% of top earners in companies. It’s safe to say that we are still fighting the good fight.
If you are truly passionate about advancing and empowering women, I invite you to continue to check out my blog and engage in this discussion. There is still much to do. I started with a Sheryl Sandberg quote, I’ll end with one too “A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes”.