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Blog Insight & Commentary

6 Positive Research Studies About Working Women

You can only eye-roll at “women don’t speak up enough in meetings” so many times

Meghan Prabhu
Contributor

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In a society that seems to be increasingly focused on confidence gaps and what women can do to succeed in a man’s world, it can be hard to focus on the positives...or to find a study about working women that does. (Did you see that research about why women can’t be funny at work? Terrible.) 

Most of the write-ups about those prescriptive, “women shouldn’t do this” studies fail to address the sexism they unveil, and they seriously bum us out. We think it’s time to give women credit where it’s due, so we scoured the internet for the nuggets of research that reveal women’s successes in the workplace. Here are some of our favorites:

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1. Support for women in the workplace equals support for everyone 

In 2017, globally accredited consulting firm Great Places to Work and FORTUNE compiled a list of the top 10 workplaces for women. To determine this ranking, over 400,000 U.S. women in the workplace were surveyed on metrics such as respect, fairness, and management, as well as fair hiring standards, pay, and benefits compared to men. The study found that all of the organizations included in the top 10 were also more likely to have “smaller gaps among other demographic groups that frequently report less positive experiences than their colleagues”—aka marginalized groups like people of color and LGBTQ individuals, as well as others such as millennials and employees in lower jobs or paying levels. Overall, this means workplaces that support and create positive employment experiences for women tend to better support all of their employees, no matter their race, educational background, or sexual orientation. 

Read more: What Is Intersectional Feminism?

2. Women are shown to possess better leadership qualities than men

Society’s perceptions of women in the workplace have come a long way—in the best way. The Harvard Business Review surveyed managers across the country on their perceptions of their male and female employees on several metrics including motivation, professionalism, self-development, honesty, problem-solving, and collaboration. The results? Women scored significantly higher than their male counterparts on 17 of the 19 key competencies, which include both behavioral and technical skills. In fact, women are, “thought to be more effective in 84% of the competencies.” Harvard collected this data from a wide variety of professions and work environments, including traditionally male-dominated fields such as IT, computer science, and law. While gender biases undeniably still exist in the workplace, women are increasingly receiving the credit they deserve. 

3. Working women have a positive impact on their children

The archaic notion that stay-at-home moms raise happier, more productive children has long discounted the impactful parenting of mothers who choose to do paid work or need to work. However, recent studies completely disprove this theory. Surveys conducted in 29 countries, reaching 100,000 people, found that “daughters of employed mothers are 1.21 times more likely to be employed, 1.29 times more likely to supervise others, spend 44 additional minutes at work per week, and have higher annual earnings” in comparison to their counterparts raised by stay-at-home moms. Even more interestingly, this correlation only pertains to daughters. Sons’ futures in the workplace are not impacted by their mother’s employment status. Harvard Professor Kathleen McGinn explains that working moms help to positively shape their daughters’ views on employment, balancing responsibilities, and perceptions about gender. Even within families and across generations, women empower women!  

4. Working women end up healthier than women who do unpaid work

There’s no question that employment is empowering. However, a study by Jennifer Caputo of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research shows that the positive effects of work experience follow women for their whole lives. Caputo closely studied a sample of over 5,000 diverse women between the years of 1967 and 2003 from the National Longitudinal Survey of Mature Women in the U.S. to determine the relationship, if any, between employment history and physical and mental health. Women who had been employed for a prolonged period of time—regardless of income, general satisfaction with work experience, or other potentially confounding variables —lived longer and with fewer physical limitations later in life. By 2012, their risk of death was 25 percent lower than women who had never worked outside the home. Beyond just the immediate benefits of employment, a chance for a longer and most satisfying life is certainly a reward for women who work. 

5. Women are the untapped financial future

The UC Davis Graduate School of Management annually surveys 400 of  California’s largest, most reputable public companies; the survey pays special attention to gender disparities and the roles played by women in the businesses. Its 2015 report found that the 25 companies where, “median returns on assets and equity were at least 74% higher than among the overall group of companies surveyed,” had the greatest number of women in executive or C-suite positions when compared to all the companies surveyed. These select firms generated a median 4.4 percent  return on assets and 12.3 percent return on equity, as compared to a median 1.9 percent on assets and 7 percent on equity in firms where women were not represented in the most glamorous positions. This adds an entirely new dimension to the shortcomings of the gender gap. In 2016, McKinsey Global Institute reported that, “if every country could narrow its gender gap at the same historical rate as the fastest-improving nation in its regional peer group, the world could add $12 trillion to its annual GDP  by 2025.” The implication of this is massive! Research continues to prove the irreplaceable value—pun intended —that women bring to the workforce, and we’re totally here for it.

6. Women boost each other up

Behind every girl boss is a support system. This isn’t coincidental—a network of close friends actually helps women thrive. Research at the Harvard Business Review found that women who had a, “female-dominated inner circle of 1-3 women landed leadership positions that were 2.5 higher in authority and pay than females lacking in this combination.” It’s pretty nice to know the practical value of empowering and spending time with your girlfriends. Solidarity is crucial to success—definitely something to make note of.

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