What does “woman” mean? A woman is an adult femalehuman. A female human before adulthood is called a girl. The plural form, women, is sometimes used in certain contexts. Despite its limitations, the term “woman” is still useful for social status and shorthand for femininity. As such, it honors and enacts the feminine, and transcends the limitations of a sexist society. But why?
While historically, most women were not allowed to work outside the home, there have been significant changes. For example, access to birth control has increased since the 1920s. Women who were unmarried or young in 1978 were categorized as “gainful workers” by the Census Bureau. Increasing access to birth control has made it possible for married couples to control the size of their families and plan for childbirth around their work schedules. This has also helped young women delay marriage and plan for children around their career choices.
While gender roles differ in different cultures, the basic social role of a mother in most countries is the same: raising a child, assisting with household chores, and taking care of children. Many parts of the world still expect women to stay at home after childbirth, although some do return to paid work. In Sri Lanka, Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the first female prime minister, democratically elected in 1960. And in many other countries, women are still underrepresented in the political arena.
Despite the many efforts of many companies to make the workplace more gender-balanced, fewer women are advancing than men. This is due to the fact that women do not have as many opportunities as men to rise to senior positions. And women are also far less likely to receive the first critical promotion to a manager. A lack of diversity in the workplace results in women being the “hollow middle” – and a “hollow middle” for women.
The good news is that the number of women in the C-suite is on the rise – 44 percent of companies now have three or more women in their ranks. That’s an encouraging sign after a particularly rough year. However, unless we address the underlying issues that prevent women from getting the jobs they want, progress will continue to be slow. As of 2015, only one in five C-suite executives is a woman, and only a fifth of those are women of color.
While women’s representation across the pipeline is increasing in the C-suite and senior management, the number of black and Latina women remains significantly underrepresented. Although these numbers are steadily increasing, the number of women of color remains underrepresented in every area of the workforce. In fact, women of color are the only group in the workforce with no senior-level contact. This could have a profound effect on the views of Black women about the workplace and their interest in going out on their own.