Did you know that the higher the number of women in the workplace, the better a company is to work for? Employees working in organizations with more women than men are more likely to say they enjoy their jobs, that their role fits well into their life, and that they have opportunities to make a difference. 

There’s proof that having a higher percentage of female employees in an organization leads to higher job satisfaction and dedication, employees finding more meaning in their work, and less burnout – for everyone 🔥

If there is so much positive feedback around having and supporting women in the workplace, why are women workers still facing so many struggles? 

All women, but particularly women of colour, women with disabilities, and women that are mothers are having the hardest time at work. Click To Tweet

As employers, it’s important to understand the needs of your female employees, and what you can do to ensure that they feel engaged in their roles and at the company.

Having more women in the workplace also positively relates to overall employee engagement and retention, so prioritizing this is a must for organizations. In short, more women in the workplace translates into overall company success. 

Are you a woman in a marginalized group wondering what the future holds for you in the workplace?

Are you an employer hoping to better understand the gravity of women’s issues in the modern workplace?

Are you just passionate about the rights of working women? Then keep reading 👩👇

Women in the Workplace: General Statistics

Earlier this year, McKinsey and Co. released their 2019 report on women in the workplace in partnership with Lean In. Within this comprehensive report, there are a ton of statistics that inform the way women in the workplace are viewed. 

Going forward in 2020 and beyond, work-life flexibility will be the top priority for employees – regardless of race or gender. This need is followed closely by a desire for more mentorship and sponsorship from leaders to secure career progression. 

Although 44% of companies today have three or more women in the C-Suite, 1 in 4 women believe that their gender is why they are denied raises, promotions, and other chances to get ahead. Click To Tweet

Here are six other noteworthy statistics about women in the workplace: 

  • 20% of women that took an extended leave say it hurt their career or financial standing 
  • 81% of women have a partner that works full-time, compared to 56% of men 
  • 72% of senior-level women have partner who works, compared to 37% of senior-level men 
  • 39% of women in dual-career relationships report doing most or all of the housework, compared to 11% of men
  • 32% of women believe disrespectful behaviour towards women is quickly addressed by company, compared to 50% of men 
  • 73% of women experience microaggressions and everyday slights rooted in bias 

When female employees work for an organization that makes them feel that they have an equal opportunity for advancement in a fair system, they’re much happier with where they work. In return, that company is where women choose to grow their career, stay longer, and recommend to others. 

Key action items for employers:

  1. Provide adequate support to managers
  2. Find sponsors for disadvantaged employees looking to move up
  3. Implement hiring practices that don’t promote bias

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Women in the Workplace: Trends for 2020 

According to Gallup, when it comes to seeking a new role, women are consumers of the workplace. They’re not just looking for a role that matches their skill set, but also one that best fits into their life as it is today. For instance, if they’re raising a young family, a rigid workplace is not ideal. 

The three biggest factors that women look at when considering new jobs are: 

  1. Ability to do what they do best 
  2. Greater work-life balance and personal well-being 
  3. Increased stability and job security 

When it comes to greater work-life balance and personal well-being, 60% of women rate these as being “very important” to them in new roles. This correlates to the fact that many women view work and life holistically.

Women want to work in roles that provide them with meaning, which prompts them to consider jobs that are greatly focused on their talents, and companies that have strong reputations and exhibit corporate social responsibility. 

To follow this, 52% of women view increased job stability and security as “very important” to them in a new role, and only 39% are concerned about increasing their income with a new role. 

Organizations that view their employees as people with diverse life happenings are generally a good fit for most women looking for a change in role or to re-enter the workforce after taking some time off. 

State of the global workforce for women in 2020 

Even though more women than ever are pursuing higher education around the world, the gender gap for rates of employment are stagnant. However, by 2030, up to 160 million women in the workplace may need to transition into higher skill roles. 

Women are also currently in less than 33% of senior roles around the world, and carry a disproportionate amount of unpaid caregiving duties. Notably, the more children a heterosexual couple has, the less hours the woman in the partnership works, and the more the man works. 

Around the globe, roughly 606 million women are taking on unpaid caregiving responsibilities, compared to about 41 million men. In Canada, 61.3% of women are in the workplace, and about  3 hours and 44 minutes are spent performing unpaid caregiving duties compared to 2 hours and 28 minutes for men. 

This is not to say that men aren’t pulling their weight when it comes to caregiving duties; these are just averages and gender-focused numbers. However, the impact lies in the disproportion of these figures. 

Since women are undertaking a great deal of emotional labour, it’s essential that when they are at work, they have a positive and social environment to thrive in. 

Key action items for employers:

  1. Ensure needs for work-life balance met
  2. Support women and families trying to balance caregiving and careers
  3. Audit your company’s stance on corporate social responsibility to draw in more female talent
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How the Social Aspect of Work Benefits Women 

Human beings are inherently social creatures. We need positive and fulfilling interactions with one another to survive. This is especially true for women in the workplace.

According to Gallup, women who “strongly agree” that they have a work best friend are 63% more likely to be engaged in their roles. The 29% of women that don’t strongly agree that they have a work best friend are less likely to be engaged in their roles. 

Overall, when women are looking for a new place to work, they’re mindful of feelings such as trust, inclusion, and sense of belonging. In fact, about 66% of women in the workplace say that the social aspect of the workplace is the “major reason” why they work in the first place.

If you’re an employer, strive to make your company a safe space for all of your employees to build genuine, long-lasting relationships. You can do this by: 

  • Promoting open communication at all levels 
  • Giving employees the opportunity to collaborate 
  • Encouraging people to get to know each other 
  • Organizing social activities that aren’t work-related 

Having the opportunity to create meaningful relationships with colleagues provides women with a deep sense of affiliation to their fellow employees. Strong bonds with their colleagues drives women to frequently perform positive actions that directly benefit the business. 

Women’s progress in the workplace

In the largest 500 companies, only 10.9% of senior executives are female. In these companies, 37% boast all-male leadership teams, and 21% of them have a single female leader. On the Fortune 500 list, the larger the female presence in leadership, the higher the status of a company. 

Fortune’s “most admired” companies have twice as many women in senior management roles than companies that they consider to be less reputable. In short, diversity makes companies more profitable, innovative, and respected in the business world. 

Women in the workplace outscore men in taking initiative and driving results, and that’s because female brains use both hemispheres. Overall, according to Penn Medicine, women’s actions are rooted in analysis and intuition, which make vital in decision-making processes. 

As science and business leaders enforce the importance of having women in the workplace at all levels, but especially leadership, the easier it should be for women to see progress in their careers.

Key action items for employers:

  1. Build a team to plan and execute social activities outside of work
  2. Strive for balance between males and females in leadership roles
  3. Allow women in the workplace aspiring to move up to have insight into the decision-making process

Women in the Workplace: Gender Equality 

In about 50% of American families, women are the sole or co-breadwinners in their households. These same women also receive more Undergraduate and Graduate degrees than their male counterparts. 

Despite these numbers, women are earning less than men in every occupation. If we continue on this course, it will take until about 2059 for women in the workplace to achieve pay parity.  

The numbers are more dire for some racialized groups. For Hispanic women, it will take until about 2224 to achieve pay parity. For Black women, it will take until about 2130. 

However, if we continue to be persistent about pay equality, we can reduce poverty levels among women by more than 50%. To the U.S. economy alone, this has the potential to add up to $513 billion. 

How to empower women in the workplace 

With social reactions to gender inequality and sexual harassment, like the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, women’s voices are louder than ever in the workplace. 

Since the rise of these movements, a reported 60% of male managers are no longer comfortable participating in frequent work activities with women, such as mentoring them, and working alone with them. 

As unfortunate as it is that male workers believe they have to be more cautious around their female colleagues, women in the workplace are more empowered to denounce toxic work environments. 

Not only are they leaving roles that have been damaging to their mental and emotional health, but they’re making their walkouts public. If any wrongdoing prompted their departure, women in the workplace are making other women aware of their situations.

Whether they want to or not, companies will have to boast more transparent work cultures. In today’s workforce, about 71% of employees believe that employers should do more to increase workplace transparency

Transparency is all about being open, and openness is related to sharing power. A lack of transparency has been known to negatively impact promotion practices and salaries – especially for female employees. 

According to Great Places to Work, it’s in an employer’s best interest to focus on results delivered. More and more of the Best Workplaces are moving towards a ‘results-only’ model for their work environments. 

Working in a place like this entails employees having complete control of over how, when, and when they complete their work. As long as they deliver on results, employers are generally hands off. 

For women in the workplace that are mothers, employers can empower them by making maternity leave more affordable, celebrate the growth of their families with useful gifts, and encouraging gradual returns to the workplace. 

Women in the workplace that choose to start families with their partners are left trading money for time. A great deal of families choose to work less, thereby earning less, by having one or both parents working part-time, job-sharing, or taking even more time off than what is standardized.

Key action items for employers:

  1.  Move towards being a results-driven organization
  2.  Have a process in place for women on maternity leave to gradually come back to work
  3.  Improve internal communications to foster a culture of transparency

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Women’s Rights in the Workplace

Lack of advancement for women in the workplace can present itself in several forms. That said, it’s important to understand your rights as a female worker, and have the tools to recognize when your rights are being violated based on your sex (male or female) versus gender. 

Some of the most common violations of women’s rights in the workplace include: 

  • Not being hired because of your sex
  • Being granted a lower-paying position because of your sex
  • Being held to different or higher standards because of your sex
  • Being evaluated more harshly by leadership because of your sex 
  • Making less money than someone of a different sex that is less qualified, or has less job duties 
  • Being denied a promotion, pay raise, or training opportunity because of your sex
  • Being written up, insulted, or referred to as a gender you don’t identify with because of your sex 
  • Being subject to unwelcome sexual advances because of your sex 
  • Being rejected, forced to take an earlier leave, or receiving fewer assignments due to pregnancy 

Again, it’s important to know and understand your rights as a woman in the workplace. Most of these are common sense, and include: 

  1. Working in a safe, discrimination-free environment. 
  2. Being able to talk about gender discrimination, whether it’s happening to you, or you see it happening to someone else. 
  3. Feeling comfortable reporting discriminatory behaviour to Human Resources (HR) or your boss. 
  4. Having the information you need to file a grievance.
  5. Taking time away from your job duties to picket or protest in the name of gender discrimination. 
  6. Making personal companies of performance evaluations, employee history, and pay history in case you choose to pursue legal action. 

If you feel that one of your rights as a working woman have been violated, bring it to the attention of your boss and Human Resources department immediately. As women in the workplace continue to progress, it’s important that we call out indecencies as they happen. 

How to Stop Discrimination Against Women in the Workplace 

Women in the workplace are willing to make less money if they have more flexible hours in exchange. According to Forbes, women also need access to informal networks, influential mentors, and stretch assignments to focus on. 

Additionally, women should be offered job sharing opportunities, and Work From Home options as often as possible, especially when data shows that being in an office doesn’t equate to improved results or productivity overall.

To alleviate discrimination against women, companies need to have policies in place to reflect gender parity. HR professionals should be working with leadership teams to identify female talent showing promise in all areas of the organization, and encouraging their leaders to track their career paths and accomplishments. 

Women discrimination in the workplace

According to The New York Times, the more educated women are, the bigger the gender gaps in seniority and pay they come up against. As well in today’s workforce, 80% of women in their early 40s with doctorates or professional degrees are mothers. 

The nature of work, especially in corporate environments, has changed in ways that results in couples who have equal career potential to embrace unequal roles, such as the unpaid caregiving duties we spoke about earlier. 

This is a topic of concern because in the last two decades, employees that earn salaries have primarily earned more by working longer hours. At present, no gender gap exists between employees working extra long hours. Women on extreme schedules get paid just as much as men that do. 

However, with the heavier childcare duties falling on women, this sort of earning potential is blocked. Moving forward, we have to consider ways for women to access higher pay when working longer hours is not an option.

Discrimination against female leaders

Female leaders have already had the odds stacked against them when attempting to climb the ladder professionally. Once they land in those positions of power, women in the workplace still have to face negative perceptions from their colleagues. 

According to Fast Company, both women and men react more negatively to job criticism that comes from a female leader. Following such criticism, employees across the board became disinterested in working for the organization going forward. 

Employees are three times more likely to associate giving praise with female managers, and twice as likely to associate criticism with male managers. That’s why they react negatively; expectations have been violated. This leaves all parties feeling disengaged at work.

For women in the workplace, the leadership landscape looks like this: 

  • 37% of female managers are mid-level
  • 26% of female managers are senior-level 
  • 5% of female leaders are Chief Executive Officers 

Criticism from women in the workplace that are leaders also led to lower job satisfaction than criticism from male leaders. If feedback from female leaders is received so harshly, what is going to happen to their management style?

Since providing feedback doesn’t seem to be working in their favour, women in the workplace are compelled to use less effective management strategies if they’re already leaders. If they were thinking about pursuing a leadership role, they’re likely to become less interested. 

Discrimination against “Only” women in the workplace


According to Lean In, 20% of women say they are often an “Only” in the workplace. This is twice as likely to be the case for women in senior-level positions and technical roles. Click To Tweet

Women in the “Only” position are also twice as likely to be asked by their leaders to prove their competence, to be subject to derogatory comments, and sexually harassed. They are more than three times more likely to deal with the assumption that they are more junior than they are. 

Overall, women in the workplace who experience microaggressions are three times more likely to contemplate leaving their job than those who have not. 

For People of Colour, about 38% of those in the workplace are often the only or one of the only people of their race/ethnicity present in the room. Race-based Only females are likely to feel like every move they make is being watched, or that their actions directly reflect on others of their same race.

On a positive note, 87% of companies are highly committed to achieving gender diversity in today’s workforce. Back in 2012, only 56% of companies were working towards improving this. 

There is still a great deal of work to be done for marginalized groups of women in the workplace, but such a great increase in acknowledgement bodes well for progress.

Key action items for employers:

  1. Fund training for recruiters to hire and onboard new employees without bias
  2. Support female leaders with methods for delivering criticism
  3. Ensure all managers have current knowledge of effective leadership strategies

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Black Women in the Workplace

Today’s social sector is the ideal breeding ground for systemic barriers and biases that negatively affect Black women in the workplace. In 1969, Black feminist activist Frances M. Beal coined the term “double jeopardy” to describe the simultaneous racism and sexism that Black women face. 

According to the National Partnership for Women & Families, Black women in the workplace are especially at risk for inequitable pay. However, despite obstacles, Black women have developed strategies for reclaiming time and accelerating towards greatness in their careers. 

In the United States, Black women are paid 39% less than white men and 21% less than white women. These figures are alarming, especially when we consider that 80% of Black women in the workplace that are mothers are the main breadwinners for their households. 

Although Black women are seeking advancement and asking for promotions at the same rate as their white female colleagues, they’re seeing worse results. On top of this, Black women are the most likely group in the workplace to have their judgment questioned despite their expertise, and asked to prove their competence. 

When it comes to the pay gap between Black women and other groups: 

  • 1 in 3 Americans don’t know about the pay gap between Black women and white men 
  • 53% of Americans are unaware of the pay gap between Black women and white women 
  • 50% of Americans believe obstacles to advancement for Black women no longer exist 

The lack of awareness around the state of the workplace for such a visible minority group is problematic. It’s clear that Black women in the workplace are asking for new challenges and roles, but they are met with doubt. 

Both fellow employees and employers need to ensure that they are aware of the issues that Black women face, act as allies for them, and allow them the opportunity to move forward in their careers.

How to support racially diverse women in the workplace 

At every business level, women of colour are underrepresented. Women of colour, along with lesbian, bisexual, and disabled women are having the worst experiences in the workplace. 

When organizations focus on hiring and promoting more diverse candidates, the result is a stronger company culture around opportunity and fairness. Three factors that every company culture should include are: equal opportunity and fairness, work-life balance, and a workplace that is safe and respectful. 

For these groups, especially Black women and women with disabilities, there are more barriers to advancement in place, less support from managers, and less sponsorship. As a result, Black women and women with disabilities are: 

  • Unlikely to feel that they have an equal opportunity to grow and advance 
  • Not compelled to believe that the best opportunities go to those most deserving 
  • Less happy when they’re at work 
  • More likely to move on from the company 

Women who experience microaggressions at work are three times more likely to think about moving on from their jobs, which can be detrimental to retention rates and employee engagement levels. 

For every 100 men promoted to a management role, 68 Latinas and 58 Black women are promoted. When it comes to the C-Suite, 1 in 5 executives is a woman, and 1 in 25 of these women are women of colour. Click To Tweet

“When you think about the women in the organization, someone who’s a first manager or a V.P., she can look up at the top and see role models, and women doing it. She’ll have more confidence that she can as well.” – Lareina Yee, Sr. Partner at McKinsey 

Key action items for employers:

  1. Ensure employees are aware of the hardships that minority colleagues face
  2. Be a liaison to create sponsorship opportunities
  3. Create channels for women in the workplace to build relationships with people in similar positions, or positions they want to hold in the future

In Conclusion

After reading all of this information around women in the workplace, you may be thinking about how to condense this information and share it with your fellow employees.

Whether you were moved by the statistics, or the larger issues that different groups of women face, it’s important that we discuss these topics to foster progress.

Even if your organization is doing well, there’s always room for improvement. Some things you can start doing immediately to address issues for women in the workplace include: 

  • Gathering employee feedback on opportunities available
  • Putting together a standardized remote work policy
  • Running focus groups to gauge areas of improvement and make a plan
  • Using gender-neutral language in job posts

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