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A Decade of Gender Equity in Ten Trends

A Decade of Gender Equity in Ten Trends

The most recent estimates put us 99.5 years away from reaching gender equity. While many consider this to be a social issue, I see gender equity as a massive economic opportunity. By closing the gender equity gap, we could add $12 trillion to our global economy.

First, though, we need to understand where we stand on the gender equity map to better inform our trajectory toward unlocking that $12 trillion potential. Since the sun just set on the last decade, now is the ideal time to examine the top ten trends that shaped gender equity from the past ten years.

[Related: Women's Equality Day: The Numbers Matter]

1) We narrowed educational attainment gaps.

Educational attainment gaps narrowed around the world: 134 countries have closed nearly 93% of the gender gap in educational attainment, and 36 countries have achieved full parity. This trend matters for global economic growth because GDP per capita increases by 10% for each additional year of education.

2) We included women in the global agenda.

The UN General Assembly formed UN Women in July of 2010. Five years later, we saw their adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, of which Goal Five gives nod to the criticality of gender equity in global development. The UN recognizes that only when we give 50% of the world’s population their seat at the table will we begin to make tangible progress toward sustainable development.

3) More women took political stage.

In the past decade, the US's governing bodies improved to better represent the diversity of the population. Between 2010 and 2019, the number of female Congress members increased by 40%. Between 2010 and 2018, the number of states with a female governor increased by 22%.

Beyond issues of fairness, better representation in the halls of power bodes well for the economy: Women are 10% more effective legislators, and on an annual basis deliver 9% more money in federal programs to home districts.

4) We removed lead from the glass ceiling.

The barriers that hold women back in the workplace became less burdensome in the past ten years, largely as a result of three factors.

First, we saw the rise of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. These united survivors of sexual harassment, assault, and bias, and gave them a voice to stand up for their rights.

Second, we saw large employers (Microsoft, Facebook, Google) remove binding arbitration from employee agreements.

Finally, two demographic shifts fueled the push for greater gender equity in the workplace: Breadwinner moms became the norm in the US, and Gen Z became the largest, most ethnically-diverse generation in American history.

5) The gender pay gap took on new dimensions.

We started to understand how intersectionality impacts the pay gap. While the aggregate gender pay gap for all women is 80 on the dollar, the gender pay gap for black women is 61 cents on the dollar. For Latinas, it’s 53 cents on the dollar. Closing these pay gaps would not only reduce our nation’s poverty rates, it would also increase GDP in the US by $512 billion.

[Related: How to Fix a Microaggression You Didn't Mean to Commit]

6) Masculinity got an overhaul.

We started redefining the cultural narratives around what it means to “be a man.” There is a critical mass of men who aspire to change their role in this world: 48% of working dads would like to stay home with their kids, and 85% of fathers “would be willing to do anything” to be very involved in the early months of caring for a child.

Dominant forms of masculinity—those that say a man’s job is to provide financially for his family and refrain from showing emotion—hold men back. They also have grave consequences: Men account for 79% of all suicides in the US. In 2013 alone, suicide and suicide attempts cost the US $93.5 billion.

7) We saw a rise of voting rights movements.

Voter disenfranchisement worsened in the past decade. The Supreme Court’s ruling in 2013 Shelby County v. Holder gave states the opportunity to change voting policies without needing to receive prior federal clearance. Following this ruling, rates of voter purging increased in jurisdictions with discriminatory voting rules.

The US began preparing celebrations for the centennial of the 19th Amendment set for 2020. But the 19th Amendment gave mostly white women the right to vote; our sisters of color waited another 45 years to receive their ballot rights. This remembrance of history matters because, as we witnessed from the aftermath of the Shelby County v. Holder case, the US still denies segments of our population the right to vote.

8) Women tipped the scales in labor force participation.

More women joined the US workforce at the end of the past decade. Between January 2017 and August 2019, the labor force participation rate among women in their prime working years increased from 74.5% to 76.3%.

On the other hand, the labor force participation rate for men barely moved during the same period. By 2018, women made up 47% of the total US workforce. When we reach full gender parity in labor force participation, the US economy will be $798 billion stronger.

9) The future of work, AI, and gender equity all collided.

We saw the rise of artificial intelligence and biased algorithms in the past ten years. This trend highlights the need for gender equity in AI.

Women represent a meager 22% of the world’s AI practitioners, and that 28-point gender gap helps explain why biased AI exists. Homogenous teams of engineers program unconscious biases into AI systems. Historic inequities then become cemented into future decision-making.

As our dependence on AI grows, combating these inequities in the future of work will become all the more critical. Organizations stand to benefit from this push toward equity: A Pipeline study found that for every 10% increase in gender equity, revenues increase by 1-2%.

10) The Equal Rights Amendment resurfaced.

The ERA turned 96 years old in 2019, but by year's end, it had yet to be ratified by the necessary number of states (38) in order to become part of the Constitution. Nevada became the 36th state to ratify the ERA in 2017. Illinois followed suit in 2018, and at the beginning of 2020, Virginia became the critical 38th state to ratify the ERA.

We can’t afford to wait another ten decades to reach parity. As the momentum of the 2020 New Year celebrations wear off, let’s think about what we want the next decade’s top ten gender equity trends to be. Will the 2020s be the decade that closes the gender equity gap once and for all?

[Related: Time is Up on Staying Blissfully Ignorant]

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Katica Roy is an ambassador for gender equity in the workplace and beyond. She is the CEO and co-founder of Denver-based Pipeline, a SaaS platform that leverages artificial intelligence to drive economic gains through closing the gender equity gap.


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