A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything
Businesses that ignore the realities of the modern-day professional woman risk losing a competitive advantage, according to The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything.
Women now represent about half of all U.S. workers, producing a ripple effect of historical proportions — from work to home, according to the report. Maria Shriver, an award-winning journalist and First Lady of California, created the report in conjunction with the Center for American Progress, dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through progressive ideas and actions.
“The rumbling is shaking the ground in every corner of the culture, and many women and men are struggling to get their footing,” Shriver writes in the report. “The effect on every sector of our society will be deep, wide and profound.”
The Rise of Working Women
If you haven’t seen it already, the Shriver report, released last year, is worth a look. The report includes a comprehensive national poll conducted by The Rockefeller Foundation and TIME Magazine and portrays — among other things — the changing face and attitudes of the American worker:
- More than three-quarters of Americans (77 percent) view the rise of women in the workplace positively.
- Most (84 percent) agree that the businesses that fail to adapt to the needs of modern families risk losing good workers.
- Women are more likely than men to graduate from college and women get half of graduate degrees today.
- Women are running more than 10 million businesses with combined annual sales of $1.1 trillion.
- Women have more buying power than ever before; women are responsible for making 80 percent of buying decisions.
However, the report finds many hurdles that lie ahead for professional women and their families. Sometime, it is men who are having a difficult time adjusting. Today, for example, many men find themselves in new roles as secondary breadwinners. Often, women are their own worst enemies.
“in fact,” Shriver notes, “the poll shows that a substantial majority of women feel that men resent women who have more power than they do. Yet, wherever I went, I was surprised at how open men were to sharing their bafflement about what women want — and their own insecurities about what is expected of them.”
Other findings that shed light on the challenges ahead for working women:
- Women still earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn and women are less likely to be in leadership positions in corporate America.
- Women continue to bear a disproportionate burden in taking care of children and elderly parents, even when both partners in a relationship have a job (85 percent of women agree).
- Even with more responsibilities at work and home, women report greater difficulties than men in getting time off to care for their children and elderly parents.
- Women and men view the decline in the percentage of children growing up in a family with a stay-at-home parent as a negative development for society.
- Americans across the board desire more flexibility in work schedules.
According to the report: “If there is one clear message emerging from this survey, it is that the lives of Americans have changed significantly in recent years, yet the parameters of their jobs have yet to change to meet new demands.”
Is it Really Transformational?
While Shriver calls this a transformational change for our country, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research notes in a briefing paper that — in reality — the largest percentage point increase in women’s share of labor force occurred in the 1960s (+5.20 percent) and the 1970s (+4.42 percent). In the most recent 20 years, women’s share of the labor force has grown by less than 2 percent.
As the economy recovers and with the anticipated increase in men’s employment in the summer (a gain of construction jobs by men and a loss of teaching positions by women), women’s share of payroll employment is expected to fall, according to the brief.
Still, we’ve come a long way, baby.
“As we move into this phase we’re calling a women’s nation, women can turn their pivotal role as wage earners, as consumers, as bosses, as opinion-shapers, as co-equal partners in whatever we do into a potent force for change,” Shriver writes. “Emergent economic power gives women a new seat at the table — at the head of the table.”
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