Forget the rhetoric on Twitter. According to Bank of America, 80% of women business owners think they’ll see equal representation in STEM fields within 20 years
For female business owners, hope springs eternal.
Recent weeks have not brought much good news, with hotly debated controversies around the merit of having women in tech and the White House canning a data collection attempt on the gender wage gap. But among women who owns their businesses, it’s an entirely different story. According to Bank of America’s recently released Women Business Owner Spotlight, which surveyed 1,000 entrepreneurs, an overwhelming number of females believe that their future is very bright.
Consider representation in science and technology, a lucrative sector often seen as the future of the 21st century economy. Whatever fired Google engineer James Damore might say, a full 80% of women entrepreneurs believe that women have equal or greater representation in STEM fields within two decades. Currently, only about a third of Google and Facebook’s workforce is female, with many of them being employed in non-technical roles.
The same applies for female presence in the board room. According to the BoFA study, women biz owners believe that there’ll be equal or greater representation in the highest-paid C-suite level jobs by 2037. As of this year however, only about two dozen of the companies in the S&P 500 Index—or about 5%— are led by women. The pipeline in senior middle management is also regarded as thin.
The buoyancy also applies to the gender wage gap. Most mainstream economists accept that on average, women are paid less than their male counterparts from doing the same work, with 80 cents on the dollar being a commonly touted estimate. Still, 61% of the polled women say that females will make as much as, or even more than, men within 20 years. Achieving pay parity by 2037 would be seven years ahead of the 2044 date predicted by professional services firm Accenture earlier this year. And even then, Accenture says that’ll only be the case if everyone plays their cards right.
What explains this surge of optimism? For one, millennial women who’ve just begun to take leadership roles in the workplace are better off than counterparts from previous generations. According to the Pew Research Center, 38% of 30-something millennial females hold a bachelor’s degree while less than a third of 30-plus millennial men do. As of 2012, half of workers who graduated a four-year college were women; in 1980, that was just 36%.
While there’s some evidence that wages and opportunities tend to dip for women once they enter their 30s, companies too are becoming more savvy about retaining and promoting talent. That’s the case even in Silicon Valley, where legendary venture capital firm Sequoia Capital has been quietly running a mentorship program for female entrepreneurs over the past year.
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