It’s been more than 100 years since 15,000 women marched through the streets of New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay, and voting rights, but how much progress have women really made in the workforce?
First, the tough news: Although women make up 49% of the total workforce, they represent 59% of low-wage workers. That number is down from 63% a decade ago, but research from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) shows that it will take until 2056 for women and men’s earnings to reach pay parity–if the wage gap continues to close at the same pace it has for the last 50 years.
Another sobering statistic is from a study by Grant Thornton International on the status of women in leadership roles at top private companies worldwide. In 2011, only 20% of those at the helm were women–down from 24% the year before. The world’s largest economies–the G7 nations, which include the United States–lag further, with an average of 16% women leaders. In the U.S., only 3.6 percent of of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. And the recession may have brought the glass ceiling down a bit further as companies attempting to reverse the “mancession” hired more men.
Instead of bemoaning the numbers, though, Kathy Cloninger, former CEO of Girl Scouts of the U.S., is calling on all women to raise awareness and push back. As such, Girl Scouts is spearheading a nonprofit-sector celebration of 2012 as the Year of the Girl. “But what we really need is a Decade of the Girl, because we need to take a giant step, and we need more than a year to do it,” declared Cloninger in her book Tough Cookies: Leadership Lessons from 100 Years of the Girl Scouts.
To do this, Girl Scout’s current CEO Ana Maria Chavez advocates leading by example. “Girl Scouts was founded 100 years ago. We need to update the organization and our model, or else we’re going to lose people.” From using mobile payment technology to boost sales of those cookies (which totaled $700 million last year) to holding virtual troop meetings via web-conferencing, the organization is furthering its mission to train young girls to be entrepreneurs, managers, and leaders.
Here’s a look at what other female leaders had to say about breaking down barriers and achieving success, whether you’re clicking into a conference room in Louboutins or pounding the pavement in your Danskos.
Don’t Take Your Foot Off The Gas