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2018 Event Recap

2018 Event Recap

Download the 2018 Report

New research out of Mount Saint Mary’s University shines a light on persistent gender inequities in California’s workforce

A new report reveals that California women in the workforce lack equitable representation in some of the state’s fastest-growing and highest-paying fields, including in science, medicine, engineering and technology. The research also underscores how far women lag behind their male colleagues when it comes to equal pay and positions of influence in nearly all industries.

The 2018 Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California™ was authored by the Center for the Advancement of Women at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Los Angeles. The Center’s research examines why certain obstacles and biases continue to undermine professional opportunities for California’s women. 

“The loss is not just theirs,” says Emerald Archer, PhD, director of the Center and the Report’s editor in chief. “California’s communities and economies suffer, too, when half of the workforce is not achieving its full economic potential due to pay, wealth and policy inequities.”

In the Report, Archer’s team explored issues ranging from occupational sex segregation and gender typing to sexual harassment in the workplace, family-friendly employment policies and the ever-stubborn gender wage gap. In addition to raw data and trends, the Report also supplies context and identifies some of the driving forces that help explain why gender bias persists in the workforce.

Among the Report’s key findings:

  • California women are more economically insecure than men. Women working full time and year-round make 88 cents for every dollar men earn. Those low earnings mean less savings, too. California women as a whole own just 32 cents for every dollar men own.
  • Across the state, 5% of women who work full time, and 52% of women working part time still don’t make enough to exceed the federal poverty level. Of the 800,000 California households headed by single mothers, 38% live in poverty.
  • Women remain underrepresented in STEM fields, especially in technology and engineering, where California women account for 21% and 15% of the workforce, respectively. The Report notes many causes for this disparity, including women’s educational attainment. In 2016, just 1% of all bachelor’s degrees awarded to women were in computer and information science; a mere 2% were awarded to women in engineering.
  • California boasts more women-owned businesses (1.55 million) than any other state, and these businesses generate nearly $226 billion in revenue. However, women still lack access to positions of influence in the wider workforce. Women account for 27% of top executives in California companies, and just 4% of the state’s top 400 publicly traded companies have a female CEO. (The percentage was 3% a decade ago. Given this same rate of change going forward, it will take over 270 years for women to enjoy parity at the CEO level in California — longer than the United States has been a country.)  
  • In 2015, 60% of women across ages and positions of responsibility, who had worked at least 10 years at tech companies located primarily in the Silicon Valley, indicated that they had experienced sexual harassment at work. Over half of these incidents (65%) were initiated by a supervisor.

"Women's safety and standing in the workplace are not negotiable, and women's obstacles in the workplace are not limited to any single issue,” says Ann McElaney-Johnson, PhD, president of Mount Saint Mary’s University. “That's why we must approach these problems, and solutions, with a wide-angled lens."

A public conversation

These results and more were discussed at a public event on March 22 in Los Angeles that brought more than 800 women together to hear high-profile female leaders of industry — from places like Netflix, Bloomberg, Lyft, the U.S. Department of Labor and more — who are attempting to reverse the data on women in the workforce.

Shereen Marisol Meraji, co-host of NPR’s Code Switch podcast and a correspondent for NPR’s All Things Considered, moderated a pair of panels on “Female Forces at Work” and “Women Shaping the World: A Forecast for Our Future.” 

Judith Williams, PhD, formerly of Google and Dropbox, and now an adviser to the ReFrame Project with Women in Film and the Sundance Institute, proposed that a wholesale change in how companies approach issues of equity is needed.

“This is about fixing the structures that create these inequities,” Williams said, noting that systemic changes can create a ripple effect. “If we change the world for women, we change the world for everyone.”

“We need to have uncomfortable conversations in our workforces about gender diversity, and we need to emphasize the business case when raising the issue,” said Veronica Juarez, senior director of business initiatives at Lyft. “What are the benefits that diversity brings to the workplace? Diversity of thought and perspective is essential to solving social challenges. That’s why we need to fund more diverse entrepreneurs to really make a difference in our communities.” 

Emily Chang, author of “Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley,” and anchor and executive producer of “Bloomberg Technology,” agreed. In a conversation with Emerald Archer, Chang highlighted a pair of primary drivers for gender inequity in Silicon Valley in Northern California and Silicon Beach in Southern California. She cited that just 2% of all venture capital funding goes to women entrepreneurs in technology. “In no way is that a meritocracy,” Chang said. She also commented on how an “insidious preference for ‘culture fit’” often keeps technology start-ups and businesses from bringing in diverse hires, such as women and people of color. 

“’Culture fit’ is often just a way to reject people who don’t look and act like you,” Chang said. “Companies should be aiming for ‘culture addition.’ They should be thinking, ‘How can we add value and bring in different perspectives?’ That isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.”

Women in media and entertainment

The event concluded with a conversation on “Gender Equality in Hollywood: A Look Behind the Scenes,” featuring Academy Award-winning actor Geena Davis and writer-producer Erika Green Swafford.

The discussion was moderated by Emmy Award-winning journalist Kim Baldonado, and touched on topics ranging from representation to pay disparities. Green, writer and co-executive producer of ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder” and NBC’s “Reverie,” said women need to be more vocal about these issues within the industry, and also need to recognize how much value they bring. “Be confident in your competence. Ruffle a few feathers,” she said. “Go get your money!”

Other topics included a need to focus on identify and intersectionality in writers’ rooms, and the impact of ageism in Hollywood. Quipped Davis, the “Thelma & Louise” star: “At 40 you fall off a cliff that you didn’t choose to drive off.” 

Much of the discussion focused on the growing momentum for change in the industry, as much recent attention has been focused on improving pay and safety conditions for women in the industry, as well as diversifying who is writing, directing and portraying the stories we see on screen. Both women praised the current attention and momentum for equality in Hollywood, but voiced notes of caution. Davis for instance, reminded everyone that momentum was supposedly also shifting back in 1992, the widely proclaimed “Year of the Woman.” 

“Everyone thought “Thelma & Louise” was the movie that was going to change gender inequality in film and media,” Davis said. “But we’ve thought that several times now and we’re still waiting for that moment of gender parity. With #TimesUp and #MeToo and the success of so many female-led films, though, maybe we are closer to that turning point than ever before.” 

According to this year’s Report, the top 250-grossing films in 2016-2017 had a behind-the-scenes staff that was made up of 17% women — the same percentage from a decade before. Of the 100 top-grossing domestic films in 2016-2017, women accounted for 31% of roles on screen — only up from 30% a decade prior.

Learn more

To learn more about the event and to read the Report, visit msmu.edu/statusofwomen. The site includes a gender parity dashboard that tracks California’s progress, or the lack thereof, in seven key areas over the past decade. A companion anthology, called Collectif, is also posted online. The anthology includes related original research and essays conducted by Mount Saint Mary’s faculty and students, covering topics such as women in entertainment, women’s re-entry to civilian life post-incarceration, and the impact of mentoring relationships on first-generation Latina graduate students.

This is the seventh annual Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California published by Mount Saint Mary’s University.

About Mount Saint Mary’s University

Mount Saint Mary’s is the only women’s university in Los Angeles and one of the most diverse in the nation. The University is known nationally for its research on gender equity, its innovative health and science programs, and its commitment to community service. As a leading liberal arts institution, Mount Saint Mary’s provides year-round, flexible and online programs at the undergraduate and graduate level. Weekend, evening and graduate programs are offered to both women and men. Mount alums are engaged, active, global citizens who use their knowledge and skills to better themselves, their communities and the world. msmu.edu

About the Center for the Advancement of Women

The Center for the Advancement of Women at Mount Saint Mary’s University is a hub for gender equity research, advocacy and leadership development. Its vision is to find solutions to persistent gender inequities and work with partners to eradicate those inequities in our lifetime. That goal includes eliminating obstacles that women face in the workplace, in their communities, in the media and beyond to make a positive difference in the lives of women and girls in California and our nation. The Center also creates public programming, research guides and training opportunities to engage more partners in its work. msmu.edu/CAW