Celebrating International Women’s Day back in March resulted in many companies reflecting on their female staff members and how much of positive impact women have on their workforce, productivity, creativity and success.

March 2022 saw companies showcase on their social media pages, celebrating and thanking the women that work in their company, from the junior roles right up to the senior executive. In fact, the global average for women in senior management is currently at an all time high of 32% globally.

There is no question that women bring a lot to the table, but is the current trend enough, or do we still need to do more as a society to include, equalise and promote women to the top positions? This is still very much a hot topic for many and the sticking point seems to be that the 32% global average varies significantly depending on the industry you look at.

Modern Society

Many people at first glance might think that women and men are equal in the workplace. However, research from the recent pandemic shows that there have been fewer job opportunities as a whole across most industries, and therefore women applying for jobs have been accepting lower rates of pay due to the high competition in the market. Unlike men, women make up more of the lower skilled jobs (around 2 thirds) and therefore accept lower rates of pay while facing fewer opportunities for promotion.

Forbes recently documented that women earn 82 cents for every dollar men make. This 18% difference is what is known as “the raw gender pay gap.” However, when looking at other factors including the industry, the education and experience of the woman, and their location, the report showed that the gender wage gap shrinks to a 2% difference, equivalent to women making 98 cents for every dollar that men would make. Although this doesn’t sound too bad at first glance, this amount compounded over time means that women are significantly shortchanged for the same role as a male earner, even in the modern ‘woke’ society we believe we are a part of.

Issues in the Workplace

There are many issues that women face throughout their careers, including pausing their careers to have children, something which many men don’t need to worry about. Although there are laws that prohibit a company from paying men and women differently for the same role, as well as laws that mean companies cannot give away a woman’s job within a certain timeframe if she has a child, the issue of men and women equality at work is far more complex. Women face unconscious bias in many industries, which is a difficult issue to get under control.

For example, an interviewer might assume a woman is of childbearing age when interviewing, and favour her male counterpart for the job role because of this. They may unconsciously think that this is a ‘safer’ bet. Although they might not admit this, this is a sticky situation to manoeuvre and one that women do not have a lot of control over.

With that in mind I wish to celebrate the following women who have helped address gender diversity in under-represented industries:

For the South African Fintech Firm Wonga, Sulungeka Faltein

Sulungeka is a software engineer at Wonga, an online fintech company. This is a heavily male dominated sector, especially in back end software engineering. She had to break down barriers to get where she is, which is a leadership role supporting a team of developers and software engineers, focusing on adapting features to provide the very best customer experience.

In order to be successful, she had to work harder to prove herself and challenge latent preconceptions that many of us aren’t even aware we have; including proving she had the knowledge and capability to execute the job’s responsibilities. Sulungeka says she had to hold on to the belief that ‘there is no glass ceiling!’

For SOHO China, Zhang Xin

Zhang Xin is co-founder of SOHO China, a real estate development firm in China. Zhang has really fought to become top of her game, as she started out as a factory worker, but then Zhang Xin went on to graduate from Cambridge University with a master’s degree in economic development. She is now known as “the woman who built Beijing.”

For Nasty Gal, Sophia Amoruso

Sophia started her business Nasty Gal on eBay in 2006 but it is now a successful company generating profit in the millions of dollars. “Don’t give up, don’t take anything personally, and don’t take no for an answer,” Sophia advises, in a male dominated world.

Celebrating events like International Women’s Day was a positive step which can help propel successful women into the spotlight, altering the ingrained narrative that has developed over time in our society to show women as an equal force to be respected in the workplace. Women contribute, empathise, create, and bring specific skills and qualities to companies that some men do not, and this should be remembered and celebrated. Diversity is key to successful growth.