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Weaker Sex? Think Again!

Two words: Girl Power. What a great year for women in the workforce. Deloitte has taken great pride in leveraging its WIN program and it's great to see that women now occupy the majority of professional jobs in the United States. Check out the article below to read more about this great accomplishment.

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The Male Minority

The past year marked a watershed moment for women in the workforce. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, women now occupy 51 percent of the high paying managerial, professional and related jobs in the United States. Women also now obtain the majority of advanced educational degrees in the United States. The so-called “weaker sex” arguably is now the dominant force in the workforce.

But hold on. The leading occupations for U.S. women today are still reminiscent of the stereotypical proddings from 1950’s moms and dads. These include:

Occupation Total Women Employed Percent Women
Secretaries and administrative assistants 3,074,000 96.8
Registered nurses 2,612,000 96.8
Elementary and middle school teachers 2,343,000 81.9
Cashiers 2,273,000 74.4
Nursing, psychiatric and home health aides 1,770,000 88.5
Retail salespersons 1,650,000

51.9

Furthermore, women still also hold 90 percent or more of the jobs in other classically clichéd feminine roles including: housekeepers, childcare, bookkeeping/accounting/auditing clerks, receptionists and information clerks and teaching assistants. Interestingly however, other top-20 femininely-popular jobs are still dominated by men: first-line supervisors/managers of retail sales workers, other managers and cooks/chefs.

Despite this dichotomy, women have emerged as both a majority in the upper echelon of the workforce and educationally. Still, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that on average, women earns 83 cents for every dollar earned by men in comparable roles and that the gap is even greater for women of color or with disabilities.

Leveling the Working Fields

For enterprises based in the United States or with U.S. operations, this data should be more than just interesting trivia. It represents a mandate to address the inherent risks and opportunities of talent acquisition through new types of workforce analytics.

Recent studies from Stanford University and Cornell University corroborate that hiring managers “penalize” women, particularly those women who indicate they are raising children, during the hiring process (including salaries offered). The risk for companies is when they allow these biases to affect their hiring process or create internal workforce inequities. Certainly there are regulatory risks, but risk of failing to optimize the organization’s workforce due to gender or other biases can introduce productivity and top/bottom-line suboptimizations that ultimately affect competitiveness.

According to the 2010 Deloitte’s Talent Edge 2020 study, 73 percent of organizations identified as having world-class talent programs plan to increase their focus on gender issues, compared to only 43 percent of non-world-class organizations.

Most organizations are not required to meet statistical norms, but they do need to perform requisite analytics, and should perform similar internal experiments, to ensure these biases are eliminated from their human capital practices. Furthermore, identifying individual or systemic bias issues through statistical analysis should be a wake-up call for the need to implement human resource training programs. The ability to demonstrate having implemented such analysis and training ultimately would temper the severity of any regulatory or legal inquiries.

Given the current marketplace skewed against women and actual minorities, heads-up enterprises have the ability to benefit from talented, educated individuals cast off by their competitors’ biased hiring practices. While many global companies fixate on leveraging offshore resources to cut labor costs, one spigot for actually raising the level of their talent pool may be as apparent as monitoring, analyzing and reducing their predisposition to hiring prejudices.

World Wide Women

Global trends also indicate a possible female labor market opportunity. The percent of women in the workforce certainly grew sharply in the United States from 1980 but have plateaued the past twenty years leaving the US in the middle of the industrialized pack of nations. Countries such as Germany, Australia, Canada and the Scandinavian states each lead the US. Companies that find a way to encourage US women to enter the workforce as they have in these other nations could reap human capital benefits.

And with double digit working-women growth rates since 1980, Ireland, Spain, Greece are among those poised to catch up--notwithstanding these countries’ particular economic difficulties. This indicates that other countries whose women are entering the workforce at a faster rate, especially those that continue to lag the United States, may offer an eager, untapped workforce segment.

More recently, the Deloitte’s 2010 Talent Edge: 2020 report shows that the strategic issue of global market expansion is twice as prevalent as it was just a year ago, resulting in the quest for global talent being cited as a chief concern.

These trends represent just a sample of the type of global workforce data organizations should be gathering, integrating and analyzing to make strategic decisions, not just for the workforce, but also for the business overall. The enterprise that does not consider labor and related economic data and trends may put itself at regulatory risk and may not adequately capitalize on global workforce dynamics.

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