The demographics of women in the workplace may surprise you.
Since the launch of YWomen 5 years ago I have spoken to dozens of Fortune 500 companies regarding the critical need to recruit, develop and retain women through active male engagement and I have not heard of one company that celebrates this event. I have to say this is a HUGE miss for organizations and it’s time we shine a spotlight on this important demographic.
Do we really need a day to celebrate Single Working Women’s Day?In four simple words: OMG — YES!
August 4 is Single Working Women’s Day. Founded in 2006 by Barbara Payne, it is a day to pay homage and recognize the important role single working women play in our communities and families.
Payne and her friends wondered ‘why it is there are dozens of holidays for moms, dads, married people (anniversaries), lovers, etc. but nothing anywhere to recognize the unique contributions of single women to the world.’ They created the Single Working Women’s Affiliate Network and a movement that is dedicated to celebrating single working women who do it all.
Single working women are the backbone for most professional organizations in America.
The demographics of women in the workplace may surprise you. The number of one-parent families has nearly doubled since 1975. Based on the March 2015 US Department of Labor report, 32% of families with children were one-parent families, up from only 16.3% in March 1975. Additionally in this country:
- Women earn college degrees than men
- 36.3% of all privately held business in the US are women-owned
According to the Women in the Labor Force: 2015 Databook:
- 59% of women (over age 16) are employed
- 54.3% of employed women are unmarried (never married, other marital status, divorced, separated, widowed)
- Of the 67 million women employed in the U.S.— 74%of employed women worked on full-time jobs, while 26% worked on a part-time basis
What does this mean for the celebration of single working women?And why should progressive companies take note?
As I’ve noted previously, men and women are having different experiences in the workplace. The same can be said for single working women and their married counterparts. In addition to the wage gap (which compounds over a women’s working life and impacts, spending, savings, and retirement), single working women face other challenges:
- Benefit packages in most companies tend to favor employees who are married and have children
- Many of the subsidized benefits, childcare, maternity/paternity leave are designed for families
- Employees often assume that single employees don’t have obligations and can work extra hours, travel more frequently, pick-up work from co-workers
- Lack of understanding about their family obligations (elderly parents, siblings)
All the Single Ladies
Marriage rates are on the decline. Women (and men) are marrying later life or choosing not to marry at all. Some women are raising children on their own — either by choice or by circumstance. Men and women (married and single) are participating in child raising and the care of elderly parents.
We’ve seen tremendous progress in corporate HR policies during the past year to expand maternity leave and embrace family leave and return-to-work programs. But as Rebecca Traister notes in her book All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation, it’s time to acknowledge the “growing numbers of unmarried people in the profession world.” She outlined several areas that would support solo women (and men):
- Equal pay protection (Don’t discount a women’s labor because of the presumption that she won’t be single forever)
- Shorter work days
- Guaranteed paid vacation
- Federally mandated maternity leave, family leave, and sick leave
All the Single Parents
As Ivanka Trump noted in her recent RNC speech: “women represent 46 percent of the total U.S. labor force and 40 percent of U.S. households have women as primary breadwinners,” while she did not mention the high percentage of those breadwinning moms who are single parents, or the high percentage of single mothers who live below the poverty line. She did shed light on women as primary breadwinners for their families.
Progressive Companies Take Note
To attract and retain talent, it behooves companies to put best in class practices to work. As I often advise my clients; ask questions and then be quiet and listen. It’s critical to survey your employees to find out what is important to them, what challenges they face in their work life and their personal life. Listen and then determine how you how to provide solutions to those concerns – whether it’s pay equity, flexible hours, assistance finding child care and elder care or unconscious bias training.
Talent management comes back to understanding and caring for your workforce — your employees. Do you know the makeup of your talent pool? Do your current policies support them to do their job — and advance within your organization?
Kudos to Barbara Payne for creating Single Working Women’s Day help to bring attention single working women. And kudos to progressive companies who are already reviewing their policies and practices to accommodate all members of their workforce.