A recent report released by BMO Bank
shines new light on both the tremendous progress and the remaining hurdles women face in the current economic landscape of the United States.
The report, focusing on the financial concerns of women, reveals a mix of encouraging news and areas of stalled growth at the highest levels of leadership. While women now hold 52 percent of all management and professional positions in the U.S., they also hold less than 5 percent of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies.
American women overall still make only 78 percent of what men earn on average, and though younger women aged 25-34 typically tend to be more qualified than their male counterparts, they still earn 93 cents for every dollar that men make.
The report suggests these statistics represent positive strides, however, as the younger generation of highly educated women will continue to rise in the ranks of leadership, compelling firms to account for the issue of compensation relative to qualification and skill.
Beyond the immediate numbers, the report considers surrounding fears and responsibilities that make economic disparities that much more of a challenge for women to overcome.
Progress is a double-edged sword, complicated by the pressure many women feel to take care
of loved ones, sometimes at their own personal and financial expense. It seems that financial
and career success comes at a price for women and there is still more work to be done to truly
level the playing field. For many women, taking care of others is a personal expectation, despite
its high cost. However, loss of financial independence is a significant concern
Specifically, the demands of caregiving and the rising cost of healthcare leave many women in a bind: others are depending on them, yet they also fear becoming dependent on others down the road, as they exhaust their financial, physical and mental resources. The report cites an estimated 66 percent of women are caregivers, a full third of whom are responsible for two or more people.
Perhaps the biggest change cited in the report is that women are now the primary breadwinners in more than 40 percent of U.S. households, up from about 10 percent in 1960.
BMO obtained its workforce data
from nonprofit organization Catalyst
, which shows progress across several industries in the past generation.
reports, the pace and scale of women's progress has pressed the issue of the gender pay-gap closer to the fore. There are differing points of view on how to address this inequity. Some favor legislation such as the proposed Paycheck Fairness Act
to amend existing safeguards against pay discrimination. Others view a transformation from within the private sector
as a more desirable approach that would better account for differences across industries, including how hourly flexibility impacts the determination of market value.
The BMO report concludes that the Wonder Woman ideal, introduced in 1941 by psychologist William Moulton Marston, has in many ways come to fruition, though in a form that has created new challenges reflecting larger societal patterns of change. Continued progress is not only possible, but highly likely as women bear greater responsibility in the professional world.