November 13, 2015 — Nearly a century after women gained the right to vote in the United States, their economic equality and full participation in society remains elusive. There is a significant gender-based pay gap, a glass ceiling, and a lack of basic policies to support women in the workforce.
This must change.
That’s why I recently announced The Men for Women House Caucus to promote economic growth through women’s empowerment. This caucus of male members of the US House will introduce and promote policies to further the full economic parity and participation of women. Our first initiative is a Corporate Gender Diversity Resolution supporting market-based efforts to boost the participation of women in leadership.
(Photo: Don Beyer announcing the The Men for Women House Caucus.)
Research from Catalyst, along with studies from companies like Credit Suisse, Citigroup, and others, has long shown that gender diversity at board and management levels improves financial performance. Yet according to recent Catalyst data, women make up only 25.1% of executive/senior-level officials and managers, 19.2% of board seats, and 4.4% of CEOs.
And it is for this reason that I introduced a bipartisan resolution expressing the business case for diversity on corporate boards. My intent is that the legislation will lead to a national conversation on this critical issue, and I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues to ensure that it does. The Men for Women House Caucus will sponsor legislation, convene stakeholders, and communicate the economic imperative of moving to greater parity.
The need is great and the benefits are many.
Forty percent of American households with a child under the age of 18 depend on a woman’s salary as the sole or primary source of income. Women make an estimated over 70% of all household purchasing decisions.
The US economy is boosted by the economic empowerment of fully half of the workforce. Women’s labor participation rates in the last 40 years track with improvements in both GDP and productivity. The influx of women into the workforce in America since the 1970s accounted for a significant increase in the GDP; women’s labor contributions yielded a productivity dividend which can continue to improve if more qualified and talented women enter the workforce. But recent troubling studies show a decline in women entering the workforce since 2000.
In a global economy, America’s public policy to sustain women in the workplace does not compare favorably with competitor nations. The World Economic Forum considers women’s economic empowerment to be a key economic metric, and each year releases a gender ranking of nations. America used to rank more highly in the list—and now we rank 20th.
Aside from the obvious rationale for offering equal opportunity for all in a democratic society, supporting women’s economic engagement is a strategic imperative in a global economy. Gender equality is even now factored into the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.
One McKinsey & Company study even reports that efforts to advance women’s equality could improve global GDP by 12 trillion dollars. In the United States since the 1970s, women’s labor participation has accounted for about a quarter of total GDP growth.
It’s clear that when women succeed, America succeeds.
Don Beyer is the Democratic Representative of Virginia, 8th District.