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From my vantage point, men and women are making great strides in higher education achievement and employment opportunities, but there is still an imbalance between men and women in the workforce that only grows more apparent as we advance in our careers. Just look at some of the most recent statistics on the United States’ labor force.

  • Women make up nearly half of our nation’s workforce at 47%*
  • On average, full-time, year-round women workers make 78 percent of what men earn**
  • Women now complete college and graduate school at a higher rate than men. Further, women are increasingly attending professional degree programs, accounting for almost half of students in JD, MBA and MD programs**
  • Men and women have similar earnings after completing professional school, but men’s earnings grow substantially more thereafter. Men and women with professional degrees have similar earnings in their 20s, but by their late 30s, men earn approximately 50% more than women**

Though women often view success with a wider lens than their male counterparts, these statistics highlight both the critical gaps and the great strides that women are making as an equally qualified and sought-after segment of the job market. However, there is still much work to be done to ensure that women and men are achieving equal, holistic success.  Organizations should consider all the possible reasons behind compensation and promotion imbalances, such as outside hires; a lack of employee diversity; a lack of qualified candidates for high-paying positions; decision-maker biases (perceived or not); and most importantly, some women aren’t asking.

The last item on this list is what I’d like to talk about. As women, we must identify what we can do personally to make the change we need to see in the workplace. There are many barriers that exist on the pathway to pay equality, but one that shouldn’t exist is your own fear or risk aversion. As an employee, you are constantly working hard and proving to yourself and others that you deserve a seat at the table. All of that hard work can eventually lead to an opportunity for advancement or promotion. To get to the next step in your career, it is critical to remember the following:

  • Take control of your own future and do not shy away from asking for what you’ve worked for and deserve
  • Speak up when you recognize that your efforts have brought positive results for the organization
  • Prioritize what is most important to you and have your own personal metrics for success
  • When the time and opportunity are right, go for it

It may be easier said than done, but it is essential to understand your own career goals and have a plan to reach them. And at the end of the day, there is no reason that all of us shouldn’t be given the same opportunities and compensation for equal work.


*U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)

**Council of Economic Advisers. “Women’s Participation in Education and the Workforce.” Updated October 14, 2014.

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