Every so often we talk about women in work, and the changing world of women at work. Over time it might seem as though we tramp the same path over and over, but in fact there have been some interesting changes to the way women perceive their place in the workplace, and how they view the future of their working lives. Nevertheless, there are factors which impact both negatively and positively. Let’s be realistic. The future is going to be hard work, no pun intended.
- Progress for women in the workforce will always remain constricted by the fact they are the child bearers. At any given time, a large percentage of women of certain ages, are not at work. Hiring women, promoting women is therefore keenly based on this issue in nearly 90% of cases where a woman could have done a job just as easily as a man.
- They are also often seen as the family caregivers, especially to the elderly, and may find themselves caring for no less than two sets of elderly parents – right at the time they should be building the peak of their careers.
- Automation is changing the work landscape for everyone, but especially for women. More often than not, because women are engaged in lower paid jobs, it will be women’s jobs that are mechanised.
- It is frustratingly noticeable that most of the world’s unpaid and underpaid work is done by women. Women continue to earn less than men, and often work longer hours.
- Leadership still eludes women. Women occupy less than 25% of executive leadership roles and around 30% of senior manager roles globally. To add to this problem, women are still underrepresented in emerging new technological roles. In addition, this factor is likely to contribute to a widening wage gap, unless women are given opportunities to increase their skills.
- While it can be noted that both men and women stand to lose jobs due to the rise of Artificial Intelligence, women face greater barriers to the preparation for alternative work. In order to effectively pursue the work, they will need to become tech-savvy and mobile. But the reality is that women have less time, flexibility and mobility because of the dual responsibilities they often hold for both their job and their household duties.
- Women are under-represented in STEM jobs – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – although their performance in these subjects does not show a lack of ability.
- In addition, it is often more challenging for women to access labour markets due to poor transportation infrastructure, physical safety and societal barriers.
Changing views of employers
To date, gender equality has focused on numbers and promotional levels, etc. But we need to envision a future where experience and individual contribution can be valued. Women should have access to the right programmes and resources to ensure that they thrive physically, emotionally, financially, and career-wise.
The fact that women are society’s caregivers should not impede their progress, but contribute to tailored programmes that suit their needs and enhance their ability to contribute. Companies need to recognise their valuable role in giving women more encouragement and room to move. The companies that do this will be in a much greater competitive position to attract and retain the best talent.
Countries that are addressing gender gaps are creating a stronger workforce, more empowered women with motivation, vision and high value. Good quality jobs for women means smart economics.
Changing the fabric of the future
- For the first time since 2016, the rates of hiring, promotion and retention of men and women are becoming more comparable. This is positive news for eventually achieving equal overall rates of male/female representation in the global workforce. Organisations are becoming distinctly keen on developing and promoting women into leadership roles, and a more balanced management force will create more motivated workers.
- Policy-makers and businesses are stepping up interventions targeted to overcome barriers that women face. There is: more investment in training; more provision of affordable childcare; greater provision of safe and affordable transportation; a focused reduction in how occupations may be stereotyped; a directed push to boost access to digital skills in emerging economies; strong motivation to encourage and support women in STEM professions; and visible efforts to address gender parity in leadership positions.
- Governments are also systematically addressing legal and regulatory inequalities, as well as inequalities such as ownership of assets, to enable women to start a business. The goal should be to strengthen women’s collective voice, and partner with the private sector to address data and knowledge gaps. Quality jobs for women will require the active participation of the private sector as well as the commitment of governments.
However, for women to take their rightful place fully in the workplace without discrimination or suppression, governments everywhere need to tackle the problems of gender-based violence and security for women – at home, at work, and while travelling to and from work. The working environment should become a place of progress, enlightenment, safety, and satisfaction for everyone.