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The Workforce Without A Woman
This morning, Wall Street received a monumental shakeup that all of America noticed. No, the Dow didn’t experience a precipitous drop, nor did a Tweet rattle a particular company’s share prices—rather, this disturbance was caused by an unlikely source: a defiant little girl. On the eve on March 8th, International Women’s Day, the world’s third-largest asset manager, State Street Global Advisors, erected a bronze statue of a young girl standing in front of Wall Street’s notorious charging bull. And while tiny in stature, the message engendered by the statue is making a colossal impact.
Gender diversity in the workforce is a problem often swept under the rug. Many people acknowledge the issue; however, very few people actually care to solve it. State Street Global Advisors is one of those heroic few. This powerful campaign was created to put pressure on companies to strive for gender parity in the workplace, specifically by including women on their boards—and the statue is far from a superficial statement. State Street has promised to vote its shares, in the 3,500 public companies in which it invests, “against nominating committee members, or the directors who select the members of boards, if the company has no female directors or cannot show tangible progress toward trying to improve their diversity.” In short, State Street isn’t taking any bull on gender inequality in the workplace.
In the last year, Catalyst conducted a national study concerning women’s participation in the workforce—the results were troubling, to say the least. Based on the January 2017 S&P 500 list, 29 out of those 500 companies have female CEOs. Statistically speaking, that equates to a paltry 5.8% of the total pool. What makes this number even more ghastly is comparing it to the percentage of women who comprise the United States’ workforce, which is 46.8%. And some might say zeroing in on the S&P 500 companies isn’t a fair representation of the American workforce as a whole, so in the spirit of equality, let’s take a look at the larger picture. In 2014, working women held roughly 52% of all managerial and professional occupations in the US. However, out of every person working in professional-level jobs, only 22% of senior managers were women. Also, lest we not forget, women are still only earning about 80% of what their male counterparts are making. These disparities are both enormous and alarming.
Now, merely publishing numbers isn’t going to magically elicit progress. Especially considering a major issue our country struggles with is asserting a problem without giving thought to a solution. Therefore, it is incredibly important that we begin to create a foundation for the American workforce that’s built upon merit and skill as opposed to one erected upon alienation and discrimination. For, as Lori Heinel, the deputy global chief investment officer for State Street, notes, there is a “wide body of evidence” that proves companies who maintain a diverse board of directors generally perform better. Especially on measures such as average growth, better priced mergers and return on equity.
With all of this in mind, and in honor of International Women’s Day, we at Innate feel it is important to realize that while the US has taken great strides to eradicate gender inequality in the workplace, this issue still very much exists. State Street Global Advisors is clearly cognizant of this disparity and they are doing something most companies won’t—they are stepping out of the shadow of complacency and ensuring that companies hold one another accountable on a national stage. In conjunction with State Street’s efforts, and using our proudly heterogenous voice at Innate, we want to empress on every company that hiring and promoting women is not a burden or a sacrifice, it’s absolutely integral to growth and prosperity. After all, if a little girl can stand up to a bull, then just imagine what a woman can accomplish in the boardroom.