Breaking the Glass Ceiling: If we can reach it, we will break it! (Andere Keys)
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American women have always been part of the paid workforce, since the earliest days of our history. Since the 1940s, increasing numbers of women have been entering the paid workforce, and today the number of American women who are employed outside the home is the greatest it’s ever been. Women are a key part of our economy and our organizations, yet they lag behind men in assuming leadership positions. 50% of the Population Women make up half – 50% -- of the United States population. In the US, as in many countries around the world, women are the primary homemakers and caregivers as well, even when they have outside employment. Women are powerful consumers and make a large share of the decisions about household expenditures, too. Although they make up half the population, however, women are underrepresented in many of the most vital areas of society, including government, finance, and business. While the number of women in these areas has been growing steadily over the last decades, women still do not occupy positions of power at a level that reflects their numbers. 60% of College Degree Earners Women earn college degrees at a higher rate than do men. As of 2013, 60% of all bachelor’s degrees in the United States are earned by women. Women enter college at higher rates than do men, and are less likely to drop out than are men, too. Studies show that girls, and later women, tend to earn higher grades than do their male peers, and also seem to understand better the impact not earning a degree may have on their later earnings. Recent studies show, however, that women with college degrees earn less and are promoted less often than their male counterparts who do not hold degrees. Those same studies also indicate that women may take on more college debt than their male peers, yet earn less upon graduation and may struggle to pay those loans back. If women are earning degrees at a higher rate than any time in American history, it is imperative that we ask why this does not translate into more women in leadership positions in business, finance, and government. 47% of the US Workforce One explanation that has been put forth for why women are underrepresented in leadership positions is that there simply aren’t enough women in the workforce to fill those positions. However, 47% of workers in the United States are women. And while women, especially women of color, do tend to be concentrated in low-wage or part-time labor, women outnumber men in the professional fields as well. With such representation in the workforce, it would seem to make sense that women should also occupy a similar proportion of leadership positions. However, this is not the case. Even in fields where women make up the majority of the workforce, the majority of leadership positions tend to be held by men. 52% of Professional Jobs Women have entered the professions at higher and higher rates over the last three decades in the United States. Women now hold more than half – 52% -- of all professional jobs. They earn professional degrees at about the same rate. While women are also overrepresented compared to men in low-wage, part-time, and service work, clearly women are represented in great numbers in the professional fields. Studies show, however, that women in the professional fields tend to be concentrated in lower level and administrative positions, rather than leadership or managerial positions. Even in professional fields where women far outnumber men, the leadership positions tend to be held by men.
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