De-Genderizing Labor

As many entry-level employees know, the first few years at a company can seem like a constant test of patience. Ample time must be spent networking and gaining the respect of colleagues, and of course, the quality of work delivered during this initial period will most likely determine how quickly newbies climb the company’s ladder.

Driven by the mantra of the American Dream, society widely believes that a person who puts in a sufficient amount of effort will inevitably acquire a higher status within both professional and social circles. While this belief is true to an extent, women today continue to lag behind men in overall workforce participation and in representation at all levels–even when possessing the same talent and drive as their male counterparts.

While the wage discrepancy between males and females in the United States today has garnered a great deal of recent media attention, difference in salaries is only one component of a much larger and complex issue.

In 2013, the Human Capital Report found that only 60 to 70 percent of the eligible female population participates in the global workforce. Males, meanwhile, account for close to 90 percent. This trend is not only found in underdeveloped countries–proportions remain true across all geographies and age groups.

Although society has slowly begun to let go of certain ideas regarding traditional gender roles, many aspects of the workforce life haven’t changed to accommodate the modern workingwoman. For one, women’s work lives are still seemingly derailed when they have a child.

In the past, women had to essentially decide whether they wanted to have a career or have a baby. Nowadays women can technically do both–but in many cases they shouldn’t expect to get heaps of help from their employers.

American mothers, for example, are only granted 12 weeks of paid maternity leave. Although research has shown that onsite childcare within offices improves employee morale and productivity while also reducing turnover, absenteeism, and tardiness, such positive work-life balance is still far from the norm.

Female employees that have put off having a child to further advance their careers face their own set of challenges, some of them directly influenced by their gender. According to a 2015 survey by Cosmopolitan where they asked over 2,000 part-time and full-time female employees, one in three women between the ages of 18 and 34 has been sexually harassed at work. Of the respondents 75 percent say male coworkers harassed them and 49 percent say that were targeted by male clients or customers.

Photo courtesy of Sam Churchill.

With such behavior taking place at companies it’s no surprise that global consulting leader Mercer reports that women today make up less than 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs and hold less than a quarter of senior management roles.

So what are women to do when they can’t succeed in companies’ structures? Many are becoming their own bosses.

Within the last few years, the US has seen an upsurge of successful female-owned businesses, a movement that the Guardian Small Business Research Institute projects will generate five million new jobs by the year 2018.

Technological advancement has greatly helped self-starting women bring their plans to fruition. By using laptop computers, tablets, and smartphones, it’s no longer necessary for companies to have large mainframes and servers. Instead, they can store most of their data on a cloud system. Additionally, correspondence with clients can be carried out electronically, further cutting down the need for physical office space.

Companies no longer need to dole out thousands of dollars on promotion either. Thanks to digital marketing and social media, companies are able to connect with their client base and target audience through platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

As for their domestic lives, women now more than ever are working from home or at offices where childcare spaces are within the same building. Shared workspaces outside of company buildings are also becoming viable options for freelance mothers. Plug & Play in Texas, Mothership HackerMoms in California, and Bean Work Play Cafe in Georgia are all facilities where mothers can work while their children play in an adjacent room, fed and entertained by teachers and aids.

While these are definite strides in the movement towards elevating women female employees to higher positions, there are still many changes left to implement in accommodating women within the workplace. If these changes aren’t made soon and companies don’t in fact become more diverse and inclusive, the United States may see more and more women-led businesses start to pop up. The US may see an increase of new women-led businesses.

Featured photo courtesy of Pexels.