I have spoken to dozens of Fortune 500 companies about the critical need to recruit, develop and retain women through active male engagement since I launched corporate gender consulting firm YWomen five years ago. In all that time, I I have not heard of one company that celebrates Single Working Women’s Day. I have to say this is a huge miss for organizations—and it’s time we shine a spotlight on this important demographic.
Founded in 2006 by Barbara Payne, it’s a day celebrated on August 4 to pay homage and recognize the important role single working women play in our communities and families. Payne and her friends wondered: Why it is there are dozens of holidays for moms, dads, married people (anniversaries), lovers, etc. but nothing anywhere to recognize the unique contributions of single women to the world? They created the Single Working Women’s Affiliate Network and a movement that is dedicated to celebrating single working women who do it all.
You might be asking, “Do we really need a day to celebrate single working women?” In four simple words OMG, Yes! Single working women are the backbone for most professional organizations in America.
All the Single Ladies
The demographics of women in the workplace may surprise you. The number of one-parent families has nearly doubled since 1975. Based on the March 2015 US Department of Labor report, 32 percent of families with children are one-parent families, up from only 16.3 percent in March 1975. Additionally in this country:
* Women earn more college degrees than men.
* 36.3 percent of all privately held business in the US are women-owned.
According to the Women in the Labor Force: 2015 Databook:
* 59 percent of women (over age 16) are employed.
* 54.3 percent of employed women are unmarried (never married, other marital status, divorced, separated, widowed).
* Of the 67 million women employed in the U.S., 74 percent of employed women worked on full-time jobs, while 26 percent worked on a part-time basis.
Marriage rates are on the decline. Women (and men) are marrying later life or choosing not to marry at all. Many women are raising children on their own—either by choice or by circumstance. Men and women (married and single) are participating in child raising and the care of elderly parents.
We’ve seen tremendous progress in corporate HR policies during the past year to expand maternity leave and embrace family leave and return-to-work programs. But as Rebecca Traister notes in her book All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation, it’s time to acknowledge the “growing numbers of unmarried people in the profession world.” She outline several areas that would support solo women (and men):
* Equal pay protection: Don’t discount a women’s labor because of the presumption that she won’t be single forever.
* Shorter work days.
* Guaranteed paid vacation.
* Federally mandated maternity leave, family leave and sick leave.
All the Single Parents
As Ivanka Trump noted in her recent Republican National Convention speech: “women represent 46 percent of the total U.S. labor force and 40 percent of U.S. households have women as primary breadwinners”. She did not mention the high percentage of those breadwinning moms who are single parents, or the high percentage of single mothers who live below the poverty line, but she did shed light on women as primary breadwinners for their families.
To attract and retain talent, it behooves companies to put best in class practices to work. As I often advise my clients, ask questions and then be quiet and listen. It’s critical to survey your employees to find out what is important to them, what challenges they face in their work life and their personal life. Listen and then determine how you how to provide solutions to those concerns, whether it’s pay equity, flexible hours, assistance finding childcare and eldercare, or unconscious bias training.
Talent management comes back to understanding and caring for your workforce—your employees. Do you know the makeup of your talent pool? Do your currently policies support them to do their job and advance within your organization?
Kudos to Barbara Payne for creating Single Working Women’s Day to help bring attention single working women. And kudos to progressive companies who are already reviewing their policies and practices to accommodate all members of their workforce.
Jeffery Tobias Halter is a corporate gender strategist. The country’s leading expert on engaging men to advance women, he is president of YWomen, a strategic consulting company. The former Director of Diversity Strategy of The Coca-Cola Company, Jeffery has worked with leading companies including McDonald’s, Deloitte, Publicis Groupe, GE and more. HIs latest book Why Women: The Leadership Imperative to Advancing Women and Engaging Men, is the first business book written by a man on how companies can advance women to enhance the company. A highly sought-after thought-leader, Jeffery is a TEDx speaker and frequently talks at industry and corporate events.