Two recent studies, one global and the other domestic, have made it disappointingly clear that the gender gap in the U.S. isn't even close to being closed. The Global Gender Gap Index 2013, by the World Economic Forum -- measured gender gaps on economic, political, education and health criteria in 136 countries. The U.S. ranked No. 23 -- but No. 67 when it came to wage equality for equal work. The domestic study, conducted in August by WalletHub, used similar criteria, and returned results that were just as bleak for women -- pay inequality and job rank inequality exists in all 50 states.
What Causes the Pay Gap?
WalletHub surveyed 25 experts, mostly professors of sociology with a sprinkling from psychology and law, from all over the country, to give their opinions about what causes the pay and opportunity gaps, and to suggest possible solutions. There were many common themes in their answers:
Occupational segregation. Men and women tend to work in different fields and occupations, but male-dominated jobs pay more -- even with the same level of education. In addition, men start at higher-paid jobs and are promoted more than women.
Gender bias, discrimination and stereotyping. This includes sexual harassment, old-fashioned sexism and roadblocks that pregnant women and mothers face in the workplace.
Laws and policies. Lack of effective federal family leave policies and inflexible workplace environments make for businesses that are not family-friendly.
What Can Be Done?
Most experts agreed that the problem was not an individual one. Sure, individual women can network more effectively (vertically and horizontally), seek out companies that make gender diversity a priority and find mentors or sponsors, but for real change, the solutions need to be systemic. For example:
The U.S. could take a cue from the Nordic countries, and improve family leave policies to include paid leave for parents and require all companies to offer parental leave.
Enforcement against workplace bias by governments and within companies could become more effective. One law professor suggested that the damage caps on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act be removed or raised as an incentive for companies to create more effective preventive measures in regards to gender discrimination.
A New York Times analysis last week -- headlined "The Motherhood Penalty vs. the Fatherhood Bonus" -- boldly begins with the line: "One of the worst career moves a woman can make is to have children." It goes on to describe the disturbing double standard for male and female parents in corporate America. In a nutshell: men's pay and career opportunities blossom when they become dads, while women's careers and pay falter when they become moms.
Experts interviewed for the article offered up causes and solutions similar to those from the WalletHub survey. They attributed the problem to discrimination and cultural bias against mothers in the workplace and suggested instituting two policies -- "publicly funded high-quality child-care for babies and toddlers" and two, "moderate-length paid parental leave" -- was the best hope for solving the problem.
Will this decade see a positive change for family (and therefore female) friendly policies in the workplace? Let's hope that studies and articles like these raise greater awareness and prompt change at the policy level.
5 Women Who Are Saving Tech
State of the Genders: Pay, Opportunities Still Lag for Women
If there's a grandmother of the female-tech leadership movement, it's Weili Dai, who in 1995 co-founded semiconductor company Marvell Technology (MRVL).
Dai was the first woman to be a founder of a global semiconductor company. But co-founder isn't the only hat Dai has worn for Marvell. She's also served as chief operating officer and executive vice president, among other positions.
Dai's influence has helped the company become a dominating force in the semiconductor market. Marvell has brought in annual revenue of more than $3 billion over the past three years.
Meanwhile, Dai generates positive press for the company just by being herself. In 2012 she was honored with the Outstanding Leadership Award from nonprofit Upwardly Global. She's a truly inspiring executive, and not just if you're a woman or a techie.
Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) was in rough shape when Meg Whitman arrived as CEO in September 2011. Its stock had taken a colossal downturn from $48.64 that February to $22.32 in September.
Whitman faced the seemingly insurmountable task of saving the dying giant. Even after her appointment, HP's stock would sink even further to a low point of $11.94.
Still, with fierce determination and a thick skin, Whitman has brought better times to HP.
After the team working on Microsoft's (MSFT) search engine Bing awarded multiple server orders to HP competitor Dell (DELL) (the most recent for $350 million), Whitman called Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, and demanded to know why. Ballmer sent back a lengthy memo detailing nine reasons. Whitman analyzed it thoroughly and took action. The next time Bing needed servers, they went with a bigger order ($530 million) at HP.
It will of course take much more work than one order for Whitman to reshape HP. However, being receptive to criticism and using it to improve is a great quality in a CEO, and HP may already be benefiting from it. Since hitting that low point of $11.94, HP reached a 2013 high of $23.84.
Two years ago, IBM (IBM) picked one of its senior vice presidents, Virginia "Ginni" Rometty, to be its new chief executive officer. It was the first time in the company's history that a woman had been appointed CEO.
Since then, the company has seen another first: the first time its stock went above $200.
Rometty earned the CEO position after steering IBM's acquisition of the consulting unit of Pricewaterhouse Coopers in 2002. At $3.9 billion, it was the largest deal in IBM's history, and as Rometty herself said, the "first and only time a professional services firm of that size has been integrated into another large company."
Offering consulting services has diversified IBM's product offerings, which has in turn broadened the company's reach. In a fickle industry that is constantly changing, having a strong competitive advantage is a huge plus.
IBM went on to make more than $100 billion in 2011, the year of Rometty's appointment, and made $104 billion in 2012. If Rometty has her way, the company will maintain this upward momentum for a long time to come.
Like Whitman at IBM, Marissa Mayer was appointed chief executive officer at Yahoo! (YHOO) after a string of CEOs had jumped ship from the company. Yahoo! was struggling, and in 2011 its share price had dropped under $12, its lowest point since 2002. Morale was low, and the company looked to Mayer to save it.
Mayer, who was the 20th employee at Google (GOOG), worked quietly during the first few months following her July 2012 appointment, trying to get the clearest sense of Yahoo!'s business and culture. Then, in February 2013, she made major waves by announcing a controversial telework ban. The era of Mayer had officially begun.
The telework ban sparked a national conversation on the value of being able to work remotely, and arguably brought Yahoo! more attention than it had received in years.
Yahoo!'s share price is the highest it's been in more than four years, and for the first time since 2010, the company saw an increase in its annual revenue. Mayer definitely has a long way to go, but she's had some impressive results thus far.
It's pretty much impossible to talk about women in technology and not bring up Sheryl Sandberg.
The Facebook (FB) chief operations officer has brought copious attention to the subject through the release of her book, "Lean In," regarding the empowerment of women in the workplace. But her professional track record is remarkable by itself.
For a long time Facebook's future looked uncertain -- thanks in part to movies like "The Social Network," it was some were tempted to dismiss it as a fad invented by a nerdy college student in order to look cool, as opposed to a business that could be monetized.
Sandberg's mature, business-oriented presence has helped change that. Since her 2008 appointment, Facebook has achieved impressive earnings in the realms of mobile applications and advertising. The company has weathered its share of blunders (most notably, its disastrous IPO in May 2012), but its annual revenue has more than doubled since 2010 -- proof that, with Sandberg's guidance, the company is ready for adulthood and in a position to make some serious money.