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The Importance of Women in the Workforce

Women comprise a significant segment of the workforce. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women share 46.8% of the total labor force in the United States.

So, what does that mean for business leaders? Approximately only half of American women participated in the workforce in 1980, compared to nearly 80% of men. And, while the number of women working today is a substantial increase from past years, there’s still a lot that can be done to increase the number of women who are not only part of the workforce, but remain engaged and active throughout their careers.

The Facts About Gender Equality and Leadership Diversity

Most companies are highly aware that supporting female leadership and fostering gender equality is an absolute must in today’s work environment. With more businesses jumping on the gender-equality bandwagon, it’s easier to see the data behind the importance of women in the workforce.

Companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. Women are clearly not the only ones who benefit from a more diverse workplace.

According to the Women in the Workplace 2016 study, only about half of men said that their companies embrace diverse leadership styles. While there are statistically more men in top executive roles, men do want to see women among them in these types of positions. And even though men continue to achieve these top roles, the results say a lot of men in the workforce want to see more diversity when it comes to their company's leadership.

The Difference Between Women and Men in the Workplace

According to a new Pew Research Center survey on women and leadership, most Americans find women indistinguishable from men on key leadership traits such as intelligence and capacity for innovation, with many saying they’re stronger than men in terms of being compassionate and organized leaders.

However, you’re likely to see fewer women in top-tier executive positions. The reason? Companies are still struggling to provide the necessary opportunities to set up women employees for success. Even with the increase in women leaders in recent years, men are still being promoted at a higher rate than women, allowing them access to the people and tools they need to continue their success within a company.

While women tend to leave the workforce and reenter it more often than men, it’s not necessarily a downfall in a woman’s career. Since women experience different types of work environments from reentering the business world, they typically learn to be more resourceful, doing more with less. This is a skill that oftentimes can’t be taught, but rather it is acquired from life experiences.

Challenges Ahead

The value that women have in the workforce is truly immeasurable. With the skills and knowledge that women bring to the table, it’s no wonder why gender equality is at an all-time high.

But there are still challenges ahead. It’s often common for women to experience unfair treatment or an uneven playing field simply due to their gender. As discussed earlier, fewer women are getting promoted when compared to their male counterparts.

When companies implement tools to help progress a woman’s career goals and allow access to the items they need to advance their careers, you’ll see that there can be an even playing field among men and women. Training and guiding entry-level women can help shape the future c-level executives to come.

If you haven’t figured it out already, increased participation of women in the workforce is a benefit to all. The number of companies that are embracing the importance of women in the workforce is increasing every day, but to sustain this type of growth, companies need to take action.

In order to keep pace with the rest of the business world and to ensure your company is capitalizing on the positive impact that women can have on your company, make sure that you're investing in training to help bridge the gender equality gap, and ensure that all employees—men and women—experience fair hiring, wage, and promotion opportunities.

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Linda Hummel

Linda T. Hummel, an insurance industry veteran, joined SWBC in 2013 as CEO of the Employee Benefits Consulting Division. She is responsible for the strategic direction and oversight of the operations, sales, and marketing efforts to employee benefits clients and prospects. Hummel brings over 25 years of health benefits experience to the company. Before joining SWBC, she was President of the Employer Group Division for Humana-Texas. Hummel graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York. Hummel was named “Texas Business Woman of the Year” by the Women’s Chamber of Commerce of Texas and most recently, she was recognized by the Austin Business Journal’s “Profiles in Power and Women of Influence Awards.”

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