In total, a woman starting her career today loses an average of $ 406,280 due to the wage gap in her lifetime.
And that was prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.
So what’s next for women? CNN Business asked four female leaders for their views on where things are and their hopes for the future.
On the gender pay gap
Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO of the National Center for Women’s Law
Even before the pandemic, the pay gap typically took more than $ 10,000 a year from women. This loss of income is now intensifying the economic repercussions of the pandemic-induced recession, robbing women and their families of a financial cushion when they need it most. In the months and years to come, as women who lost their jobs seek work, there is a risk of a widening pay gap, as many will feel pressure to accept the first offer, often at a level lower than that. before, simply because they don’t have the savings to hope for better.
Kim Churches, Executive Director of the American Association of University Women
We are not in a good place and I fear that things are stagnant at best or in decline at worst. Women suffered more layoffs and job losses during the pandemic because many work in retail and service positions. And many other women have been forced to leave their jobs due to care demands. As we begin economic recovery plans, we must address the systemic issues that cause the gender pay gap. Until Covid-19, women were making great strides, but the pandemic has set back all of our hard-earned progress. We need to redouble our efforts to achieve parity and demand change now.
Rachel Thomas, Co-Founder and CEO of LeanIn.org
They also face huge systemic barriers. They are overrepresented in low-wage jobs that don’t provide critical benefits like paid vacation. Many struggle with the cost of child care, which has nearly doubled in the past two decades. And they face discriminatory credit practices that make it difficult to accumulate wealth. Fixing this will require real systemic change. Business leaders must close race and gender pay gaps once and for all. And policymakers should raise the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour, make childcare much more accessible and affordable, and provide paid national family leave to all employees..
Dr. C. Nicole Mason, President and CEO of the Women’s Policy Research Institute
The gender pay gap continues to affect women’s long-term economic security and well-being. Since 1985, the gap has only closed by about 18 percentage points. That is icy. At this rate, it will take more than 40 years to close the pay gap. For Black and Latina women, it will take more than a century. What this means is that my daughter and the daughter of my daughter’s daughters will see no pay equity in their lives. Women earn less than men in almost all occupations. That is true for professions dominated by women and for professions dominated by men.
On women in leadership
Churches: Sure, we’ve made some remarkable progress. Today, the United States elected a woman vice president; the most powerful person in Congress is a woman; the number of women running Fortune 500 companies has reached an all-time high of 37. But come on, that’s nowhere near fairness! Women make up about half of the workforce and we are still a long way from occupying half of the leadership positions in all sectors. We need a culture change and we must be proactive in removing the barriers and prejudices that prevent women from assuming leadership positions in all fields.
Tombs: Promoting solutions that get families out of this pandemic will be thanks in large part to the inclusion of women in the rooms where these decisions are made. Women, especially women of color, understand the experiences of those who suffer the most. But we must remember that while these leaders are here right now, that may not be the case without an intentional investment in a generation of leaders behind them. Many women have been expelled from work due to the Covid-19 crisis. These women are not just the workers of today, they are the leaders of tomorrow.
Mason: I am optimistic about the leadership of women. Right now, women are leading hugely. From Kamala Harris, the first female vice president, to Sue Nabi, Coty’s CEO, and Secretary Janet Yellen, women are leaning toward this moment and acting as national experts on critical issues such as the economy, national security and growth. in the private sector. sector. They are demonstrating how to lead inclusively and for our highest common good.
Thomas: Senior leaders are under enormous pressure right now, and women face the same demands as men and more. This is likely based on two dynamics: Senior women are more likely to have childcare responsibilities, and decades of social science research shows that we hold women in leadership to higher standards than seniors. mens. Women in leadership positions are twice as likely as senior men to think about changing their careers or leaving the workforce as a result of Covid-19. Women are already underrepresented in leadership and we cannot afford to lose the few that we have. Compared to peer men, female leaders are more likely to advocate for racial and gender diversity, advocate for employee-friendly policies and programs, and mentor and sponsor other women.
On women in the workforce
Mason: The pandemic has had a huge impact on women, forcing more than five million women out of the workforce. The intersection of motherhood and work has certainly made the economic downturn more unbearable for women. This is a moment of public recognition and revelation that would not have been possible without the twin crises of the pandemic and the economic downturn. I hope we can use it to push us to reimagine a society, including our workplaces and homes, that is more supportive of working women and their families.
Tombs: Even before the pandemic, millions of underpaid women across the country were on the brink of a fiscal cliff: barely living from paycheck to pay, arranging makeshift childcare, and routinely lacking basic protections like paid sick leave and health insurance. . Once the pandemic hit, massive job losses by women in sectors where they were the vast majority of workers, such as retail, leisure and hospitality and education, collided with a childcare system. that collapsed to create a perfect storm that shook women disproportionately. Underpaid black and Latina women – in the crosshairs of the crisis. Women who wish to re-enter the workforce after the Covid-19 crisis will need all the tools at their disposal to avoid long-term damage to their wages and ensure the ability to challenge discrimination when it arises.
Thomas: In short, Covid-19 is a disaster for women in the workforce. Companies must redouble their efforts to retain, hire and promote women, and address the barriers and biases that have long limited the advancement of women, or risk losing years of progress towards gender equality. It will also be critical that companies create a culture that embraces virtual work and that they create standards and processes to ensure that remote workers receive the same support, access and opportunities as workers in the office. Otherwise, remote employees, who are likely to be disproportionately female, will be ignored and excluded.
Churches: There is no question, whatsoever, that women are a vital part of the workforce and the American economy benefits greatly from their contributions. But a disturbing issue is the gender of our workforce: Men still dominate in certain fields and women in others, generally those who pay the least. That is occupational segregation in a nutshell. There is no reason why there aren’t more women working in manufacturing, commerce, and of course, STEM fields. Just as there is no reason why men should not have jobs as teachers, librarians, nurses. Research has repeatedly shown that a company’s bottom line is enhanced by a diverse workforce. It is in everyone’s interest that we achieve this.