Posts Tagged ‘workforce’

Women in Finance

September 20th, 2010 No comments

I find this to be a surprisingly haphazard article from the Wall Street Journal. The data it cites from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is striking: from 2000 to 2009, the number of women working in financial services fell, even as the number of the women in the overall workforce grew.

Like Felix Salmon (whose post brought this article to my attention), the explanations cited range from the unsupported:

…technology likely accounts for some of the shift.

To the downright offensive:

They’re always perched on this edge, and if the value of staying in a high-pressure job goes down just a bit, then that might make a big difference in the number that jump.

Buried in the second to last paragraph of the article is what I see as the most plausible explanation of this trend:

Many women report that sexism is still rife on Wall Street, albeit less overt. Sexual-discrimination charges by women at finance companies dropped 28% from 2000 to 2009, according to data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. But the number of charges per woman in the industry climbed during the recession in 2008 and 2009.

A 28% drop is significant, but it’s not zero.  So it stands to reason that this sexism is a disincentive for women to enter financial services.

This trend puts them squarely on the wrong side of America’s changing workforce gender demographics.  For an industry whose success is based on hiring the best and the brightest, it would seem obvious that this is an urgent problem.  Given the self-delusion that we’ve seen from the industry in the last 10 years, I won’t hold my breath that they’ll admit to it.

Gender and the Future Workforce

August 5th, 2010 No comments

I serve on an advisory panel for the Seattle University Career Services team, and this summer the panel was asked for our thoughts on the imminent gap between college graduates and jobs requiring degrees.  That Seattle U takes the time to think about these things is a big part of why I enjoy working with them.

I had a hard time not being a skeptic though, because this crisis just doesn’t ring true to me.  Setting aside the fact that this has apparently been looming for decades, I also think it misses an important fact: people aren’t necessarily going to retire the way they have in the past.  I think it’s likely that people will hit 65, stop working full time, and pick up part time or project work from time to time.  Plenty of others agree with me.

On the other hand, I found this article in the Atlantic Monthly about another trend in college completion very compelling. In it, Hanna Rosin details the ways that secondary educational achievement for me is lagging behind that of women.  It’s long, but well worth a read.

Since it’s such a big topic, I’ll focus on one thing here:

The attributes that are most valuable today—social intelligence, open communication, the ability to sit still and focus—are, at a minimum, not predominantly male. In fact, the opposite may be true.

We constantly hear about how the future of our country is a knowledge-based economy, and Rosin puts her finger nicely on what that means with these two sentences.  Although much of the discussion we hear is about educational attainment being the key to success, I’d argue that looking for degrees is really a proxy for seeking these kinds of skills.  In turn, the way that we as recruiters screen for these skills will become increasingly important.

A former colleague that worked on diversity hiring once joked that he would get a perverse pleasure in being able to say about a particular job “we need to figure out how to attract more white males.”  That scenario may not be far in our future, and it will be interesting to see how academia tackles this challenge.