The glass ceiling — the invisible barrier between women and high-level jobs — has been inching up over the years, but we are still far from smashing it. We hear excuses for why women don’t reach top positions, like women pass up on high-level positions to take care of their families. According to the Huffington Post, women make up almost 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, 15 percent of board directors and less than 14 percent of corporate executives at top publicly-traded companies. We, as a society, have made strides toward gender equality, but those statistics show that there is still quite a way to go. Here are some big issues that are still at play that need to be resolved before we can shatter the glass ceiling:
- Paid maternity leave – The United States is the only industrialized country in the world with absolutely no requirement for paid time off. This means the only way women can get paid during maternity leave is to carry private short-term disability insurance (which is expensive and hard to find), be insured through an employer or save up enough vacation and sick time to cover that time. The Family and Medical Leave Act is meant to protect women’s jobs while they are out for leave, but it only allows for up to 12 weeks of leave and the act doesn’t even apply to smaller businesses or if a woman has been employed less than 12 months. That leaves a lot of room for women to fall through the cracks and lose their jobs.
- Flexible work options for parents caring for sick children – Once mothers come back to work, many have to worry about missing out on promotions and raises because they are penalized for missing work to care for sick children. Family friendly work policies would help parents of both genders, but would eliminate the excuse for employers to pass women up for promotions simply because they want to balance work with family life.
- Universal preschool – It’s no secret that daycare is expensive. Currently preschool is not usually part of the public school system, which leaves parents to foot the bill for extra years of daycare. Cost of daycare is one of the key components of many women’s decision to go back to work or not, or to go back as a part-time employee. Instituting a universal preschool program in public schools would help ease the daycare burden on parents.
- Equal pay for equal work – Women are still making, on average, 70 cents on the dollar for the same work men are doing. Because of salary secrecy policies, where employees are either highly discouraged or banned from discussing salaries, it becomes very difficult to prove that women with equal (or better) qualifications are being paid far less than their male counterparts. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 allows the 180-day statute of limitations for filing an equal pay lawsuit to reset every time a new paycheck is issued that falls under the discriminatory pay rate. This is a baby-step in the right direction, but there is still a lot of work to do to close the wage gap. Women make up the majority of minimum wage workers, and the federal minimum wage has failed to keep up with inflation over the years. A raise in the minimum wage would be another step toward pay equality for women.
One thing we have seen is an increase in women becoming business owners, one of many signals that women will not put up with the glass ceiling. If you would like to meet business owners from a myriad of industries, consider attending a Sterling Women Prince William event. Let’s work together to shatter the glass!
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