10 Need-to-Know Facts About The State of Women in the Workplace

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AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger

It may be the 2020s, but working women are still largely underpaid and underrepresented. And the COVID-19 pandemic that’s wreaked havoc across the world has not helped. 

 In fact, research from the National Women’s Law Center shows that millions of women have left the workforce since spring 2020. This was due to pay cuts and the lack of affordable and accessible childcare, especially with more children home from school. In December alone, women accounted for 100 percent of all job loss across the country. This isn’t the lowest level of labor participation since 1988 — which means that the virus disproportionately hurt working women. And that’s not all. According to a report from Lean In and McKinsey & Company, one in four women are considering leaving the workforce or taking a major career step back to have more time.

 “The headwinds against women are just increasing in strength, and women are just continuing to fall behind,” Stacy Francis, CEO of Francis Financial told CNBC. She added that, “when the dust settles from Covid, we are going to see the numbers of debt loads being carried by women higher,” too.

 While women have made serious strides in the working world leading up to this year, a lot more work needs to be done to achieve gender parity in the workplace. And the COVID-19 pandemic has only set progress back.

 Want more specifics? Here are 10 concerning statistics:

1. Women are more likely to lose their jobs than men.

Women experienced unprecedented job loss both in the United States and around the world in 2020, due to COVID-19. Studies show that women in the United States (plus China, Italy, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom, where the research studied) are 24 percent more likely to permanently lose their jobs than men.

2. Women are slowly but surely becoming more underrepresented in the entire workforce.

Less than half (46.9 percent) of all women had participated in the labor force in 2020. This is a decrease from 51 percent in 1990, according to research. This means that women represented just 38.8 percent of all working professionals in the last year, another study suggests.

 Why? Well, unpaid caregiving responsibilities still disproportionately fall on women’s shoulders. And this, research shows, can prevent paid employment opportunities.

3. Women don’t make up many CEOs at S&P 500 companies.

 Currently, women make up just 30 (six percent) of the 500 CEO positions within the S&P 500, according to Catalysts Women CEOs of the S&P 500. In 2017, women made up 6.4 percent, which means that the number is only declining.

 So, while growing research shows that women are statistically better at managing both people and money — boosting talent retainment and profits — they’re not being promoted to or hired in leadership roles.

4. Just more than a quarter of members of Congress are women.

The number of women in Congress is growing, but women are still underrepresented. Currently, 141 women hold seats in the United States Congress, according to Rutgers. This means that they make up 26.4 percent of the 535 members. Twenty-four of them serve in the United States Senate, and 117 of them serve in the United States House of Representatives. Another four non-voting delegates represent American Samoa, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia in the House of Representatives.

 While the increase is encouraging, it’s still not equal.

5.  Women still experience sexual harassment in the workplace.

Women still experience sexual harassment in the workplace, despite the era of #MeToo. In fact, according to the EEOC, which is responsible for enforcing the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual harassment is still rampant in workplaces. Sex discrimination cimprises nearly 30 percent of all charged filed to the EEOC under all the statutes that the agency enforces. Women filed 74.4 percent of them — that’s 19,605 charges.

6. Women are less and less represented in leadership roles.

As of the August 2020 Fortune Global list, only 13 women were CEOs of Fortune Global 500 companies. That’s just 2.6 percent. And, worse yet, all of them were white women. But it’s not just the top companies that aren’t hiring or promoting women. A 2020 Mercer analysis of 1,100 companies around the world found that women are dropping from leadership roles in droves.

According to the report, women only make up 23 percent of executives, 29 percent of senior managers, 37 percent of managers, 42 percent of professionals, and 47 percent of support staff.

7. The gender pay gap is only getting worse.

Across the world, recent data suggests that women earn 12.9 percent less than men in median earnings. Overall, on a global scale, women earn just 79 percent of men’s average salary in average monthly wages, according to research. In the informal economy, the gender pay gap is even worse. Women earn just 47 percent of what men earn in the formal economy — and they make up a big chunk of the informal economy.

8. Women of color leave their jobs more often than white women and men.

According to a 2019 survey, half of women of color planned to leave their employers in the next two years because they did not feel supported and promotions weren’t coming their way. This is 10 percent more than white women.

After all, women of color made up 18 percent of entry-level positions in 2020, but few advanced to leadership roles, research shows. They represented only 12 percent of managers, nine percent of senior managers and directors, six percent of VPs, five percent of SVPs, and three percent of C-suite positions.

9. The gender wage gap is much worse for women of color.

For every dollar a white man earns, a Latina woman earns just 55 cents. Native American women earn just 60 cents. Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander and Black women earn just 63 centers to the white man’s dollar. And Asian women earn 90 cents, according to Catalyst.

10. Pregnant women and new mothers face discrimination in the workplace.

Despite laws in place to protect pregnant women and new moms, many of them still face disciminations. In fact, one in nine women have been fired or made redundant upon returning to work after taking maternity leave. Or they were just treated so terribly that they felt forced out of their jobs, 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.

There is hope that things will improve for women in the workplace, especially as businesses continue to invest in female employees and women band together to improve conditions for each other. On Fairygodboss, you can see the impact of women supporting women every day. How are you helping improve the workplace for women?


AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.