The underrepresentation of women in the workplace
I just read an interesting report about women in the workplace. It had similar findings as the articles I reviewed recently in my last post of the series. Essentially, the report suggests that women remain underrepresented relative to their male counterparts, even though they form a highly educated and skilled labour pool in the market. Given the skills shortage that is expected to occur in the near future due to mass retirements of senior baby boomer workers, this is an unsettling finding. But what are the reasons for this, according to the report?
The report refers to two “worrisome” trends. Firstly, the market may be experiencing a topping out of female participation for workers in the age group of 25–44 years. In the past five to seven years, participation has flatlined in this age cohort. In light of the fact that this age period is crucial in career building in terms of acquiring skills, knowledge and professional contacts, this is the core group of workers that form the pool from which higher level decision-making and management positions are selected.
Secondly, the gender wage gap that is largely tied to motherhood is causing women in this age group to incur larger wage penalties unrelated to their skills, education and experience. It was found that the more children a woman has, the wider the gap becomes. Also, the more frequent the workforce exits to have children, the more the worker suffers a higher wage penalty. The report notes that evidence strongly suggests that “labour force intermittency” is the main culprit.
The report provided some tips for female employees. Female employees may wish to accumulate more work experience prior to taking a maternity leave, since this leads to less of a financial penalty; this is true regardless of the length of time out of the market during a leave. Moreover, female employees may want to consider remaining with the same employer during an exit and reentry in the market for childbearing reasons, as this also leads to a lower wage penalty.
Similarly, employers can learn some things from the report as well. For example, it is important for employers to become more flexible when dealing with female employees. Employers can provide flexible work options to attract and retain talented female workers who take a maternity leave.
Further, the study suggests that employers should recognize that women prefer positions of greater responsibilities, even when those positions bring with them longer hours. It is a matter of working with and supporting these female workers, instead of assuming that workforce attachment has plummeted just because they took a maternity leave.
What do you think? Do you agree with some of the tips made in the report?
First Reference Human Resources and Compliance Editor