Shrinking the gap: How today’s workforce trends are empowering women at work, part two

In my previous article, I discussed how flexible working arrangements and pay transparency can help level the playing field for women in the workforce — which, in turn, benefits their employers as well.

For tech companies prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I), closing the gap is good business, as studies have shown those with leading DE&I practices outperform their counterparts by a significant margin. According to McKinsey, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. The World Economic Forum, in its Global Gender Gap Report 2023, asserted that diverse groups of leaders make more fact-based decisions that result in higher-quality outcomes. The consulting firm also reported that most companies (79%) prioritize women in their DE&I programs.

Indeed, ensuring women have opportunities for participation and advancement in the workforce is another way companies can find success by tapping in to their potential.

Female Participation Rises Again

After a precipitous decline early on in the pandemic, female participation rate in the labor market has come roaring back. According to Brookings, the rate since February of this year for prime-age women (between 25 and 54) has reached a record high of 77.8% in August. Women with young children (age four and under) are especially active in the labor market, with a participation rate of more than 1.4 percentage points above pre-pandemic levels.

These gains are meaningful to shrinking the wage gap because encouraging women to enter and remain in the labor market ensures they don’t fall behind in career growth and pay attainment. In the tech sector, this has been a challenging goal since 50% of women leave the field by age 35, according to SHRM. While more female students are studying in STEM fields, women who majored in computer science are less likely than men to work in a computer occupation (38% vs. 53%). So, although labor market participation for women has grown, they continue to lag in the tech field.

The pandemic disproportionately affected women on many levels: pay disparity, reduced workforce participation and lost income. In the three years since, however, these setbacks have reversed due to factors such as job flexibility and pay transparency. Employers can further accelerate progress by enacting policies that support female employees’ ambitions and goals. By eliminating pay penalties for those who choose flexible schedules, providing more compensation transparency throughout their organization and enhancing retention and career growth for women, companies can make a significant difference in the effort to close the gender gap.

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As a female executive with many years of experience in the technology staffing sector, I believe advocating for women to succeed in the industry is a win-win proposition. By attracting and advancing more women within the business, organizations will benefit from diversity of thought and creativity. At the same time, every female individual’s success will help inspire others to follow in their footsteps, further encouraging women to join the technology sector. Recent developments in the labor market are encouraging, but it’s imperative that we continue this momentum.

Companies are recognizing the significance of narrowing the gender gap, and our practices at the forefront of these changes show a profound commitment to DE&I initiatives. Over the past few years, we have witnessed a notable shift among employers to foster workplace environments that empower women.

A key aspect of this transformation involves transcending the traditional workforce planning approach and redefining recruitment strategies to attract and engage underrepresented groups.

Employers should not only address these existing hurdles and barriers but also remain vigilant in identifying and tackling emerging challenges. For example, the recent White House Executive Order on AI underscores the importance of continuously adapting to new dynamics in the workplace to ensure an inclusive and equitable environment. As technology reshapes the way we work, employers play a pivotal role in recognizing potential new sources of bias beyond AI integration. This involves comprehensively examining recruitment processes, promotion criteria, and organizational culture. By remaining responsive to emerging challenges, employers can foster an environment that embraces technological innovation and actively works towards dismantling systemic biases, promoting diversity and ensuring equal opportunities for all.

As the paradigm for work undergoes a profound shift, staffing and recruitment agencies and employers are embracing progressive partnerships prioritizing a more equal and diverse STEM workforce.

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