2017 In Review: The State Of Gender Equality In The Workplace

It’s that time of year again when people tend to take stock of what they’ve accomplished and start planning for the new year. At Fairygodboss, we’re taking a look back at the year to try to understand how things have changed for women in the labor force and what some of the biggest developments have been in the workplace.

What we found in our annual survey and report about gender equality in the workplace s that some of our most fundamental, core findings from 2016 still hold true. For example, to the surprise of many who assume that job review sites attract extreme people or those who have had extreme experiences, to the contrary, we continue to find that women in our community for the most part report job satisfaction level of 3 or 4 (on a scale of 1-5). In other words, we believe there is a normal distribution of job satisfaction in our community regarding their overall experiences in the workplace.

Moreover, we continued to see in 2017 that job satisfaction levels for women correlated with certain other things, such as (i) the perception of gender equality in their workplaces; (ii) seeing gender diverse management teams at their companies; (iii) longer maternity leaves taken; and (iv) their perception that they work in a family-friendly environment. While causation is always difficult to prove, the consistency of these findings compared to 2016 was further evidence in my mind of the importance of these items to both recruiting and retaining women.

We explored 3 significant new research areas in 2017. First, we delved more deeply into the way women and men look for new jobs.

How Women And Men Jobseekers Differ

While we previously focused on the elements of a job that mattered most in recruiting women, we had not directly compared that to what elements of a job men cared most about. Moreover, our job-seeker research found is that women and men report that they rely on different sources of information and online resources and websites when looking for new work.

Specifically, we found that women are more likely than men to rely on their friends and personal networks as well as job review sites when looking for a new position whereas men are more likely than women to use traditional job boards and LinkedIn when looking for their new positions.

Moreover, women are more likely to value a good manager, the ability to work from home (or remotely), and work-life balance compared to men who are more likely than women to value career growth opportunities, their title and amenities at work when considering a new position.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

It would be impossible to write about workplace developments in 2017 without touching upon the sexual harassment developments both in terms of the headlines but also company policies that have started to already evolve. We’ve seen both victims advocating for change in the legal system as well as corporations taking it upon themselves to change their contractual processes. For example, Microsoft recently announced it is eliminating non-arbitration clauses that often bind victims of sexual harassment to secrecy that protects harassers and employers.

Fairygodboss also fielded sexual harassment research this year showing that most perpetrators of sexual harassment in the workplace are colleagues (under the age of 40) who harass women under the age of 30. This stands in contrast to headlines that suggest that powerful managers and celebrities tend to be the main problem. Moreover, we found that most sexual harassment goes unreported for fear by the victim of reputational harm and that when it is reported, it is often to a manager / supervisor rather than to human resources. These findings point to areas where employers looking to reduce sexual harassment can focus their efforts.

Women’s Employee Resource Groups

Finally, our research has identified a promising resource that 90% of Fortune 500 companies already have access to when it comes to effecting change and adopting policies that benefit women and improve gender diversity in the workplace. Specifically, companies’ internal women’s resource groups (also called affinity groups or ERGs) are something most female employees we surveyed decided to participate in, and even more encouragingly, experienced personal, career benefit as a result of participating. Finally, a majority of these women who joined their women’s ERG groups at work saw improvements in company policy that was initiated or supported by their internal women’s organizations.

Looking back at 2017, we believe that we saw progress for women in the workplace. While the numbers of women leaders remain small, I’m hopeful that the attention that sexual harassment has brought to women’s experiences in the workplace catalyzes further change and causes employers to both use the resources they already have at hand (e.g. their women’s employee resource groups) as well as make positive change in 2018 based on evidence that we and other organizations have gathered.

Georgene Huang is CEO of Fairygodboss, a marketplace where professional women looking for jobs, career advice and the inside scoop on companies meet employers who care about gender equality.


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