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Women and Workplace Equality: We’ve Come a Long Way Baby… or Not
By Danielle Burns

By Danielle Burns and Kathleen McQuiggan

There is no denying that women have come a long way from the struggles and discrimination they faced in the past 50 years when it comes to finding a job and having access to educational resources. But have we broken the proverbial “Glass Ceiling,” or is there still more work to be done?

Arguments can be made on both sides of this discussion, but studies show that a staggering 75% of millennial women—who will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025—are pessimistic about gender equality in the workplace and believe that we are still in a stalled revolution (http://bit.ly/1h3uAQR).

Let’s look at a few workplace facts regarding women in the workplace.

  • Women often hit a ceiling in job advancement due in part or solely to competing demands of work and family.
  • Women earn an average of 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.
  • A woman will fall short of a man on a similar career path by approximately $431,000 over her lifetime due to the earnings gap.
  • According to the US Census, a typical 25 year old woman working full time all year earned $5,000 less than a typical 25 year-old man,

But all is not lost. Let’s take a look at some of the amazing contributions women have made in the workplace.

  • When at least three or more board members of a firm are women, there is on average a 60% better return on invested capital.
  • Women have comprised 51.5% of management, professional, and related positions since 2012, and this number is on the rise.
  • Women in the U.S. earned 36.8% of MBAs in 2010-2011. This number is continuing to increase which equates to more women having better opportunities for job advancement.

So where do we go from here? There are many organizations, initiatives, and resources that are dedicated to supporting the advancement of women in the workplace. The Women’s Empowerment Principles offer guidance to companies on how to empower women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors and throughout all levels of economic activity, which is essential to:

  • Build strong economies;
  • Establish more stable and just societies;
  • Achieve internationally-agreed goals for development, sustainability, and human rights;
  • Improve quality of life for women, men, families, and communities; and
  • Propel businesses’ operations and goals.

On the investment front, companies like Pax World, Calvert Investments, and Parnassus Investments have mutual funds that are specifically targeting the goals and needs of women and the contributions they can make to a company’s bottom line. The Pax Ellevate Global Women's Index Fund, for example, seeks investment returns that closely correspond to or exceed the price and yield performance, before fees and expenses, of the Pax Global Women’s Leadership Index*, an index of companies around the world that are leaders in advancing women through gender diversity on their boards of directors and in management, and through other policies and programs.

Kathleen McQuiggan, Managing Director of Pax Ellevate Management LLC says, “The Fund represents a market solution to a global business challenge—the need to increase the number of women on boards and in upper management. Women hold 31% of the board seats at companies in the Fund, compared to a global average of 11%, and 69% of companies have three or more women on their board, compared to a global average of 13%. By investing in this Fund, you are helping direct investor capital towards those companies that are embracing gender diversity.”

Some may say that we have broken the glass ceiling and some may believe that there is still work to be done, but one thing is for sure:  Women are a critical and driving force to our economic, community development, and lifelong vitality.


Mention of specific companies or securities should not be considered an endorsement or a recommendation to buy or sell that security. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.


* A custom index calculated by MSCI. One cannot invest directly in an index.


You should consider a fund's investment objectives, risks and charges and expenses carefully before investing. Contact a licensed financial advisor and or the fund company before investing.


RISKS: Investment in mutual funds involves risk, including possible loss of principal invested. You could lose money on your investment in the Fund or the Fund could underperform because of the following risks: the market prices of stocks held by the Fund may fall; individual investments of the Fund may not perform as expected; the Fund’s portfolio management practices may not achieve the desired result. The Fund does not attempt to outperform the Index or take defensive positions in declining markets. Accordingly, the Fund’s performance would likely be adversely affected by a decline in the Index. Investments in emerging markets and non-US Securities are generally less liquid and less efficient than investments in developed markets and are subject to additional risks, such as risks of adverse governmental regulation, intervention and political developments. As this Fund can have a high concentration in some issuers the Fund can be adversely impacted by changes affecting issuers. There is no guarantee that the objective will be met and diversification does not eliminate risk.

Posted: October 29, 2014