Ahead of International Women's Day last week, the International Monetary Fund released a new study reaffirming the correlation between more women in the labor force -- and in more senior positions -- and positive results for corporate profits and national GDPs.
"The results are clear: increasing female participation improves the bottom line," IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde wrote in a blog post announcing the results.
From an organizational perspective, the research found having more women in managerial positions and corporate boards leads to improved profitability. "One more woman in senior management or a corporate board is associated with 8-13 basis points higher return on assets," Lagarde wrote.
The theme for 2016's International Women's Day was #PledgeforParity. With that in mind, we wanted to share Care.com Co-Founder, Chairwoman and CEO Sheila Lirio Marcelo's recommendations for three steps we can take right now to improve gender parity – at work, at home and in society.
- At Work
We’re decades removed from the 9-to-5 days when dad dropped his briefcase at the door and mom was in the kitchen putting a hot dinner on the table. Yet too many of our workplace policies haven’t adjusted for the realities of our 21st century workforce.
We need paid family leave to be the rule and not the exception, because it keeps more women in the workplace and it creates more equity in the workplace when men also have the option of taking leave and child care is not just a societal responsibility placed on women. We need to help employees find and manage child care responsibilities, because 70 percent of families say the cost of care affects career choices for all parents and care interruptions are among the biggest causes of absenteeism and lost productivity.
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We need to hire the best possible candidates and modernize evaluation processes to focus on results and SMART goals that don’t unfairly penalize working caregivers. We need to proactively address the challenges we’ll face as our demographics shift and more people live longer than ever before, straining our senior care infrastructures and creating an exploding class of working caregivers that, frankly, we’ve never had to deal with before.
Women are entering the workforce in record numbers, but once we get there we need to lift each other up and change cultural norms. And not just for women, either. At Care.com, we have a director who just came back from four months of maternity leave. Her husband could have taken the same amount of time, but didn’t because he was afraid of how his female boss would react. That kind of situation can affect not only his time to bond with his newborn and transition to becoming a working father, but it also can strain his wife’s transition back to work after maternity leave.
- At Home
In the majority of American families with children, both parents work. There is the intent, especially among young families, to share caregiving and breadwinning responsibilities equally. So that appears to be progress. But we’re not there yet – not by a longshot. In households where both parents work, women still spend about twice as much time on housework. This imbalance is consistent across the world – men spend more time earning money, women spend more time doing unpaid work. That’s a problem.
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In her 2016 annual letter, Melinda Gates highlights what economists call “opportunity cost,” explaining the time women spend completing mundane tasks – like laundry, grocery shopping, etc. – detracts from other goals they could accomplish. To put it another way: If they weren’t spending so much time doing unpaid work, women could spend more time doing paid work.
This is hurting not only households, but our economy. According to a recent Economic Report of the President, all of the income gains middle class American families have experienced since 1970 are due to a rise in women’s earnings. Globally, if women participated in the workforce at the same level as men, it would boost our global GDP by 26 percent. That’s $26 trillion – equal to the combined GDP of the United States and China.
So how do we address this? We have to divide and conquer. Technology has lessened the amount of time women spend on household tasks, but we need men to be more involved to take the next step. There has been a pivot in conversations to involve men in these movements, and it’s encouraging to see that happening on a global level. An Indian laundry detergent company’s #ShareTheLoad commercial is the latest example. It’s one of the most powerful two-minute videos – let alone advertisements – I’ve ever seen about gender roles and responsibilities.
- In Society
We need to support increased child and dependent care tax credits, in order to make quality, reliable adult and child care more affordable for families. We need to support legislation, like the FAMILY Act, which would provide paid family leave for Americans. We need to stop framing caregiving issues as “women’s issues.”
READ: Why Care.com Is Supporting the FAMILY Act
We also need to stop our unconscious gender biases for perpetuating damaging stereotypes and creating obstacles to parity. We need to end the “Mommy Wars.” We need to focus on the impact of women overall and that means for women to think of purpose beyond themselves and support each other, rather than devaluing the contributions of women who’ve taken another path. I was startled after reading a piece, “VCs – don’t compare me to your wife, just don’t,” that was getting a lot of attention. Though it addresses the important issue about the lack of VC funding for female entrepreneurs, it implicitly denigrates the contributions of wives of venture capitalists.
Check out Sheila's original post on improving gender equality on LinkedIn. And tell us: How will you #PledgeforParity? Love to hear your thoughts in the comments!