10 Things Everyone Needs to Know About Women in Business in 2021



AnnaMarie Houlis
AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger

It's 2021, but there's still a lot of work that needs to be done before women are equals in the workplace. Women are still largely underpaid and underrepresented, even though copious studies have proven that attracting and retaining female talent makes companies much more successful. Time and time again, science suggests that, when companies have women leading their teams and their boards, companies make more money, attract and retain better talent, and improve relations. And, yet, women are still so behind in the workforce.

The COVID-19 crisis only exacerbated issues for women in the workplace. Want more specifics? Here are 10 statistics everyone should know about women in business:

1. Women are dropping from the workplace in droves.

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc across the world, leaving countless people out of work — the majority of whom are women. In fact, women have lost a combined 5.4 million jobs during the COVID crisis, which compares to men's 4.4 million jobs lost, according to Center for American Progress. More than 2.3 million female employees have dropped out during the pandemic, compared with 1.8 million men, according to the Wall Street Journal. Among unemployed women of at least 20 years old, nearly two in five have been out of work for at least six months, the report reads. That's at least half a year without an income, which of course is hurting women's careers and mental health.
Studies also show that women in the United States (as well as in China, Italy, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom, where the researchers studied) are 24% more likely to permanently lose their jobs than men. These numbers are so bad, the United States Department of Labor says that the pandemic has set women’s labor force participation back by more than 30 years.

2. Women are still underrepresented in the workplace.

While women make up half of the population, they still represent just 47% of the total labor force, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. More specifically, 57.4% of women participated in the labor force in 2019 (the most recent data), compared to 69.2% of men who participated in the labor force.
The representation of women in the workplace is a decrease from 51 percent in 1990, according to research. And the numbers are only getting worse as women continue to leave their jobs or be forced out due to the pandemic and other causes like automation (women are more likely to lose theirs jobs from that, too, research says!).

3. Women still earn less than their male peers.

It's no secret that the gender pay gap still exists. Somehow, in 2021, the gender pay gap has not gotten much better than it once was. In fact, women still only make 82 cents to the male dollar.  According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, in 2020 (the most recent data), women’s annual earnings were 82.3% of men’s. Worse, the gap is even wider for many women of color. 
While women only made 57 cents per the male dollar in 1973, progress has been slow and stalled, according to United States Department of Labor blog. Women still earn less in almost every occupation. (You can see how women’s earnings compare with men’s in over 350 occupations using the United States Department of Labor interactive visualization tool.)

4. Women of color are not sharing in the job market recovery.

Research shows that women of color have it the hardest when it comes to losing jobs — and earning jobs. While the unemployment rate fell to 5.6% in February for white workers, it was worse for Black and hispanic workers, who reported jobless rates at 9.9% and 8.5%, respectively. In fact, employment for Black women is 9.7% lower than it was back in February 2020. In contrast, for white men, white women, and Black men, employment is down 5%, 5.4%, and 5.9%, respectively.

5. There are very few women leading companies.

The number of women at the helm of Fortune 500 companies has increased to an all-time record: 37. Nevertheless, that number still only makes up 7.4% of the Fortune 500 businesses that are compiled annually. 

6. Pregnant women face discrimination in the workplace.

While there are certainly laws in place to protect women in the workplace who are expecting, as well as new moms, many of them still face discrimination. Specifically, one in nine women have been fired or made redundant upon returning to work after they took maternity leave. Or they were treated so poorly that they felt forced to leave their companies, according to research from the Business Department.

“Pregnancy and maternity discrimination is illegal, but some new mothers still find unacceptable attitudes on their return to work which effectively forces them out of their jobs,” Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst told the BBC.

7. There are very few female CEOs.

Women currently hold just 30 (or 6%) of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies, published by Dow Jones, according to Catalyst.

8. Many women still face sexual harassment in the workplace. 

Sexual harassment in the workplace is still rampant, even despite the efforts of the #MeToo era. Research shows that an alarming 81% of women have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime, and almost three-quarters of them were harassed by someone more senior in their organizations.

9. Racism is rampant in workplaces — and it adversely affects Black women.

While 93% of white workers do not believe that racial or ethnic discrimination exists in their workplaces, they are sorely mistaken. Almost half, or 42%, of employees in the United States have experienced or witnessed racism in the workplace. From the preference of "white names" on resumes to the fact that Black women with natural hairstyles are considered less professional than Black women with straightened hairstyles, racism is real and alive, research proves.

10. Women face ageism more than men at work.

A whopping 61% of US workers who are either at or over the age of 45 have reported witnessing or experiencing ageism in the workplace, according to studies. And it affects women more than it affects men — a lot earlier, too. In fact, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states a 15% increase in the number of Age Discrimination in Employment Act charges by women who are at or over the age of 40 from 1990 to 2017. During that same time, there was an 18% decrease for men within the same age bracket.

About the Career Expert:

AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist for a gamut of both online and print publications, as well as an adventure aficionado and travel blogger at HerReport.org. She covers all things women's empowerment — from navigating the workplace to navigating the world. She writes about everything from gender issues in the workforce to gender issues all across the globe.