Business Benefit from Women in the Workplace

shutterstock_110777462Businesses that create a culture that supports and encourages women in the workplace will see positive effects on all employees and overall business success. The Gallup report: The Women in America: Work and Life Well-Lived presents evidence of this positive effect. It also shows that women are an important part of the talent pool and that encouraging female employees can help relieve employment shortage businesses are facing.

In spite of the presence of women in the workplace, the percentage of women in the American workforce has been declining recently. In 2000, 59.9 percent of women age 15 and older were in the labor force. By 2010 the percentage of women working was 58.6 percent and by the end of 2015 it was 56.7 percent. A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis says that the United States used to have one of the highest rates of labor force participation of women in their “prime working age” between 25 and 54. Now the rate of participation is one of the lowest compared with other developed countries.

Even with this declining rate of participation, the report states that most women need to work for financial, social or emotional reasons. There are 73.5 million women in the workforce in the United States. Women contribute equally with men to supporting American families, and in many cases are the primary support. The U.S. Census Bureau data shows that 9 percent of working women earn at least $30,000 more than their husbands and that 25 percent of couples have earning within $4,999 of each other. Single mothers are the heads of 80 percent of the 12 million single-parent families in the U.S.

Factors that lead women to drop out of the workforce may have more to do with outside forces such as childcare responsibilities than their attitudes towards work and career. Women in the workplace are engaged in their work at higher rates than male employees, Gallup data shows. In the U.S. 32 percent of all employees say they are engaged at work: 35 percent of women are engaged compared to 26 percent of men. In managerial positions, 41 percent of women are engaged and 35 percent of men are engaged. Forty-eight percent of women are actively looking for new opportunities.

Educating and training women for promotion to managerial positions can have advantages for businesses. Women rank higher than men in positions where relationship-building is important. “Female managers are also better at engaging their employees than their male counterparts are. Employees who work for a female manager are six percentage points more engaged, on average, than those who work fora male manager. Female employees who work for a female manager are the most engaged; male employees who report to a male manager are the least engaged,” the Gallup report states.

Women in the workplace aspire to positions where they can have leadership responsibilities. Forty-five percent of women compared to 54 percent of men say they would like to have a leadership position in senior management or leadership or become a CEO. But of these women, 69 percent compared to 68 percent of men say they are extremely or very serious about obtaining such a position. When businesses educate and train women to assume leadership positions they will see positive results. “Gender-diverse business units in the retail company had 14 percent higher average comparable revenue than less-diverse business units. Gender-diverse business units in the hospitality company showed 19 percent higher average quarterly net profit than less-diverse business units.” Encouraging the diverse perspectives that come from increasing leadership positions for women in the workplace is advantageous for businesses.

Offering tuition assistance is one way that business can build the female leadership in their companies, and reap the benefits of having more diversity. In recent years women’s patterns of enrollment and attainment of degrees shows that this is a wise investment for businesses. Female students made up 56 percent of total undergraduate enrollment and male students made up 44 percent in the fall of 2014. Female enrollment is projected to increase by 17 percent and male enrollment is projected to increase by 11 percent, between 2014 and 2015, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Attainment rates for women support the value of investing in women employees as a good practice for developing business leadership. The Hechinger Report states, “Women overall continue to have greater postsecondary success than men: In 2015, 39 percent of women aged 25 to 29 had completed a bachelor’s degree, while the same was true for 32 percent of men.”