“Who runs the world?” Well, according to Beyoncé, girls. In fact, the singer’s 2011 girl power anthem may not be far from the truth. As we launch into 2017, the number of women within the U.S. labor force has quadrupled from 1948 to 2015. The term, “career woman” has moved into the realm of new normal, redefining the way the public perceives women and their contributions to society.
Today, the amount of high-profile career women is steadily on the rise. 44.3 percent of employees within S&P 500 companies are women, 25 percent of which hold top-managerial or CEO positions. This is a far cry away from the outdated “working girl” term, which connoted a more derogatory outlook on working women, often referring to women who held low-profile jobs. The term also served as slang for a female hustler or prostitute.
Fast forward to modern day, more and more companies are acknowledging the gender inequity within the corporate world. Thanks to conversations opened by successful career women, like New America President and CEO, Anne-Marie Slaughter, and Facebook COO and Lean In author, Sheryl Sandberg, the face of corporate America is on the verge of change.
Slaughter accurately explains to The Washington Post the challenges people, particularly career women, constantly face; having to balance the needs of work with those of their families’. The realization, while difficult, is rather empowering. The illusion of the “having-it-all” career woman neglects the everyday conflicts of most real men and women: making time to finish the work presentation and read a bedtime story. However, Slaughter concludes that empowering women in the workforce includes encouraging gender equality in both corporate and common life.
“The bottom-line message,” explained Slaughter, “is that we are never going to get to gender equality between men and women unless we value the work of care as much as we value paid work– or when both men and women do it. That’s the unfinished business.”
As more women open these kinds of conversations, the definition of an American “career woman” is becoming deeper and more fundamentally empowering than the two-dimensional “have-it-all,” super moms portrayed by the media. The responsibility of balancing work with family is extending to all parts of work and societal culture, rather than just resting in the woman’s lap.
Recently, more high-profile corporations, such as Ikea, are changing their policies, granting longer, paid maternity or paternity leaves. Companies, such as Paragon Law and The Mom Project, are dedicated to helping women find or maintain positions while balancing a family. Husbands and men are participating in housework and child care. The structure of the family is heading in a newer, more inclusive direction.
While the business world’s gender ratio and pay gap are still uneven, the image of the career woman has expanded beyond just Rosie the Riveter. Studies have shown that businesses with gender-diverse workforces make more profit and increased customer base. Career women are now defining a new generation of leaders and team members, empowering women as well as society.
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