Wednesday, March 8 was International Women’s Day. It is a day that at once celebrates the advancement of women and serves as a call to action to eliminate the gender gap in areas of economic and political participation.
Care.com Founder, Chairwoman and CEO Sheila Lirio Marcelo participated in a panel discussion at the United Nations International Women’s Day event, where the theme was “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030.”
Here are a few of the takeaways we’re still talking about:
- Around the World, Balancing Work and Family is the Biggest Obstacle
The findings from new research by Gallup and the International Labor Organization confirm what many HR and business leaders no doubt already know: Balancing work and family is one of the biggest obstacles in the way of eliminating the gender gap on labor force participation. Other key issues cited by women in North America were unequal pay, discrimination and lack of affordable child care. The ability of our companies and public policies to help reconcile work-family conflict will be key to reversing the downward trend of female labor force participation in the United States. To that end, family-friendly benefits, like paid family leave and backup care, are proven to be effective ways to attract and retain female talent and drive positive business outcomes.
- Anne Hathaway Made Some Good Points About Paid Leave
In a rather moving speech on the floor of the United Nations, actress Anne Hathaway spoke about the state of parental leave in the United States and how women are “economically punished” for parenthood. “Paid parental leave is not about taking days off work,” she said, “it’s about creating the freedom to define roles, to choose how to invest time and to establish new positive cycles of behavior.” Companies that offer paid parental leave, Hathaway noted, report improved employee retention, reduced absenteeism and training costs and boosted morale. “Far from not being able to afford to have paid parental leave,” she continued, “it seems we can’t afford not to.”
Related: What Women Want: What it Takes to be a Great Company for Women
- “We Need More Male Feminists”
A recurring theme on International Women’s Day was the call for more male feminists and generally, more male involvement in closing the gender gap. There are any number of ways for men to play a leadership role in lifting women up, and employers can play a big role in that enablement. Taking a gender-neutral approach to policies like paid leave, for example, allows new dads to get more involved as caregivers and their wives, in turn, are better able to return to work. There’s opportunity for a cultural change here, as well. As Sheila wrote earlier this week, we can #BeBoldForChange “by shifting our attitudes to think about women in the workplace the way we think of them outside of it: as equals. … challenging the traditional assumptions about gender—and gender roles—will be vital to achieving the kind of systemic change we need to close the gender gap.”
- Eliminating the Global Gender Gap Would Mean HOW MUCH?
According to UN figures, 76.1 % of the working-age male population are in the workforce, compared to only 49.6% of women around the world. US labor force participation isn’t too far off those numbers. Not only that, but women—here and across the globe—are often concentrated in lower-paid jobs and more insecure forms of employment. There is considerable economic incentive to reverse these trends. Says the UN: “Women are half the world’s potential and unleashing it requires access to decent, good-quality paid work as well as gender-sensitive policies and regulations, such as adequate parental leave and flexible hours. The economics make sense, too: If women played an identical role in labor markets to that of men, as much as $28 trillion, or 26%, could be added to the global annual Gross Domestic Product by 2025.”
Related: Why New Moms Are Still Quitting Their Jobs
- This Panel Though
As I mentioned earlier, Care.com Founder, Chairwoman and CEO Sheila Lirio Marcelo was on panel at the UN’s International Women’s Day event. She joined International Labor Organization Director-General Guy Ryder, Gallup CEO Jim Clifton, actress/activist Eva Longoria and Princeton Professor Emeritus and 2015 Nobel laureate Sir Angus Deaton for a panel discussion on the forthcoming ILO and Gallup report “Towards a better future for women and work: Voices of women and men.” You can watch it below.