Women are educated and looking for jobs, but their actual participation in the job market pales in comparison to available candidates. Women make of up nearly half of the labor force and half of college undergraduates, yet in some industries such as tech, women only hold about 25% of IT jobs. In some cases, their numbers are even dropping. Underrepresentation is present throughout the talent pipeline and is very apparent in the C-Suite, where executive boards are male-dominated.
The lack of gender diversity is a missed opportunity to allow companies to grow and flourish. If women’s participation in the economy was increased to equal men’s, it would add an estimated $28 trillion or 26% to the annual global GDP by 2025. Gender diverse teams perform better and are more likely to earn profits above national industry averages.
Knowing all this, companies have made an effort to champion gender diversity. Though well-intentioned, they often go about it the wrong way. Companies often pinkwash the issue of gender diversity—they sound good on the surface and promote better representation through hiring more female candidates, providing them pink-colored spaces in their office and hosting yoga and aromatherapy events for “the ladies.”
While providing women their own spaces is good and even necessary—it is a safe space where fellow women can find support and feel at ease—pinkwashing is simply a gendered marketing ploy that does very little to address the real issues women face: a lack of pay (women are typically paid 80% of what a man earns on average), lack of opportunities for promotion, inflexible work hours and restrictive maternal leave policies; all of which, drive women out of the work force.
Pinkwashing also serves to increase the gap between women and the rest of the male-dominated workforce. Providing them their own spaces without integrating them into the rest of the industry, only reinforces this “us” vs “them” mentality when it comes to gender. It’s very easy for a company to have diverse representation but lack the sense of inclusion that makes those numbers meaningful.
It isn’t enough to have a few token women in your company anyway. A Catalyst study showed that the benefits of gender diverse boards only happened when boards were made up of what they refer to as “critical mass”—30% women. To be truly gender diverse, companies need to get more women on board.