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Will Things Ever Change for Women in Business and Manufacturing?

April 9, 2015
    The value of recruiting women into business—including all aspects of manufacturing—has been researched to death. With a recent flurry of new attention, let's hope leaders will take action.

Is it just me, or am I reading more about the importance of women in business and manufacturing these days?

Everywhere this first quarter, it seems, I'm seeing new reports about the role of women in the workplace—and the importance of attracting more women to participate. I dare say that I've heard more about this topic in this three-month period than I have in any other of my 20-plus years reporting on the topics.

If so, it's—again—about time.

I say "again" because, unfortunately, this is another of those issues—like the importance of manufacturing to the U.S. economy—that every decade or so receives a flurry of attention for a time, and then all but disappears from the national conversation. This time, since the election of 2012, we've kept alive the attention on the importance of manufacturing; hopefully, we'll be able to do the same with this issue.

Why all the attention?

The most recent news is about the culmination of Ellen Pao's gender discrimination lawsuit against Kleiner-Perkins Caufield & Byers. That case, though failing to find bias, is being credited by many for calling out numerous examples of "subtle sexism" that women business executives face. If nothing else, it's sparked many conversations.

The Institute for Women's Policy Research report revealed a finding so startling -- that U.S. women would not achieve pay equity until the year 2058 —that it made The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Before that, the Manufacturing Institute recognized 130 women with its third annual 2015 STEP Ahead awards, which honor and promote the role of women manufacturing. This effort, the acronym for which refers to Science, Technology, Engineering and Production, includes research exploring why women are underrepresented in industry.

A little earlier in March, the Institute for Women's Policy Research published a report, "The Status of Women in the States: 2015—Employments and Earnings," which revealed a finding so startling—that U.S. women would not achieve pay equity until the year 2058—that it made The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. (Interestingly, the Institute had reported this finding as early as September 2013.)

In early March, to coincide with International Women's Day on the 8th, the International Labor Organization released a report, "Women in Business and Management: Gaining Momentum." It found that, 20 years after the 4th World Conference on Women (which "set a bold agenda for advancing gender equality and women's empowerment"), "more women than ever before are managers and business owners, [but] 5% or less of the CEOs of the world's largest corporations are women."

At about the same time, the World Economic Forum released its latest "gender gap" report (the group began studying the issue in 2006). It also posted to its website an online, interactive calculator that allows you to enter your age and calculate how old you'll be when the global gender gap is expected to close. The site helpfully notes: "If you were born today, you would be 80-years old when the global gender gap is predicted to close in 2095."             

The WEF report followed extensive news coverage of the group's eponymous event in Davos, Switzerland, in late January, which noted the sparse participation of women leaders—just 17% of the 2,500 attendees.

Significantly, most of these reports repeat research results that definitively show that recruiting women to leadership positions and to fill the skilled workforce gap will benefit companies—making them more competitive, more innovative and more profitable.

So what are you waiting for? We've researched the topic to death.

It's time for action.

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