Women are forging their own pathways in the business and entrepreneurship landscape today more than ever.
One of the most significant social and economic accomplishments of the past century is the increase of women in the paid workforce. Women’s participation in the labor market has nearly doubled since 1950, when 33.9% of women aged 16 and older worked outside the home. In 2019, women’s labor force participation grew to 57.4%.
There are several reasons responsible for the increase of women in the labor market. First, college attainment has increased among women, and women now outnumber men in both educational degree attainment and completion. A college degree affords individuals the opportunity to increase their earning potential and creates significantly more employment opportunities.
Second, millennial women are delaying both childbearing and marriage into their late 20s and 30s, leaving them more time to focus on job and career aspirations. Despite experiencing systemic discrimination, biases in hiring, and barriers to advancement and promotion, women today have more freedom to pursue opportunities than in the 1950s.
With this increased freedom, women are forging their own pathways in the business and entrepreneurship landscape. According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, there are 12.3 million women-owned businesses in the United States responsible for generating $1.8 tillion annually. Over the past year, women across the country started an average of 1,817 new businesses per day, with women of color accounting for 89% of new businesses opened in 2021. As women continue to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors, they drive economic and social change. This increased visibility and influence critically impacts business development, product innovation, and job creation.
5 Reasons Companies Should Invest in L&D Opportunities for Women
1. Women’s leadership leads to increased innovation
Research shows that companies experience creativity and innovation when women are directly involved in the development of new products and services. Additionally, women are strong collaborators and team-oriented leaders able to effectively lead change across teams. The more organizations continue to invest in women, offer L&D opportunities for women, and empower them to lead, the more teams will readily embrace times of intense change and innovation. With the drastic shift in business operations due to COVID-19, it is more critical than ever to put female leaders at the forefront of decision making.
2. Women understand target demographics
Investing in women leaders allows companies to better meet the needs of their consumers. Studies show millennial women are not only driven by price, but also by purpose, meaning they are attracted to brands and products that communicate their purpose or vision as part of their value proposition. A vision or purpose rooted in altruism, community, and education is more likely to attract female consumers. Women leaders, and particularly those of color, can lead an organization in developing products and services, and crafting messaging that resonates with a diverse audience of female consumers.
Women are the gatekeepers to household and discretionary spending, controlling 80% of consumer purchasing. Organizations that prioritize the voices of women leaders can more successfully connect with this powerful audience and see the positive impact to their bottom line.
3. Investing in women advances Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
Women remain severely underrepresented in executive level and C-Suite leadership positions. In 2021, women of color composed just 13% of C-suite roles, according to the Women in the Workplace study by McKinsey and LeanIn.Org.
A DEI mission can no longer simply be a statement. It must be accompanied by intentional action. Companies need to invest and support women-led employee resource groups, professional development training or conferences, and evaluate gender biases in their hiring and promotional process.
4. Professional development opportunities expand promotions for women
Learning and development programs for women foster social and intellectual capital, particularly training programs that address effective leadership strategies, career mapping or coaching, salary negotiation, managing conflict, and navigating personal, societal or organization barriers. They also serve to create a culture of empowerment and achievement within a company. Abilitie’s leadership development programs offer companies the opportunity to engage rising women leaders through experiential learning, hands-on business challenges, and expert facilitation.
The programs also provide women the opportunity to practice in a wide variety of leadership roles that may not always be open to them in real life within the simulated, virtual companies, giving participants the chance to solve-real life, diverse problems in a safe space.
5. Creating L&D opportunities for women can increase a company’s bottom line and employee cultural competency
A recent study by Boston Consulting Group found increasing the diversity of leadership teams improved financial performance. The study included 1,700 companies across 8 countries of varying industries and sizes. It found companies with more diverse management teams had 19% higher revenue. While diversity is a metric every company should reach for, it’s important to highlight the inherent monetary value in hiring a more diverse workforce.
In an increasingly diverse society, all employees need the skills and competencies to communicate with diverse populations. Interpersonal skills are highly desired by employers — but with more racial, ethnic, and gender diversity, employees are challenged and propelled to develop skills to communicate with populations that are less homogenous. Some companies may move to incorporate cultural competency in performance or promotional evaluations, creating pressure for employees to develop and showcase these skills. Diversity is no longer viewed as a quota to fill, it’s a call for companies to develop inclusive cultures that are supportive of a diverse workforce.
Companies must invest in the talent and skills of women leaders. Data shows having women at the decision-making table and in leadership roles has significant benefits for organizations. By putting women at the forefront, companies can remain competitive and innovative in a rapidly changing world.
About the Author
Dr. Ciera Graham is an experienced higher education professional, career coach, and a freelance writer specializing in topics ranging from college and career readiness, race and social justice, and career issues impacting women, and people of color. She has written for the Seattle Times, Best Colleges, Career Contessa, Medium, College Xpress and more.