March 4, 2022
Executive Director, Panasonic Foundation, and Vice President, Office of Social Impact and Inclusion, Panasonic
Feminist Plumber, Founder, and Chief Visionary Officer, Tools & Tiaras Inc.
Director, Grow with Google, Google
Director, Women's Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor
While the United States job market has made tremendous gains in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, women’s job recovery has unfortunately stalled. Men have seen a significant increase in employment compared to pre-pandemic levels, while there are nearly 2 million fewer women in the workforce, according to SHRM.
Thankfully, there is considerable room for improving private sector efforts in attracting women and eliminating barriers to facilitate a diverse workforce. At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s 12th International Women’s Day Forum, leadership experts in diversity and inclusion discussed ways to close the skills gap for women working in non-traditional occupations.
Women Must Lead by Example and Own Their Narrative
Alejandra Ceja, executive director and VP of the Office of Social Impact and Inclusion at Panasonic Corporation of North America, said women will make significant contributions to the workforce if they are simply given the opportunity to lead.
“I think we have to do a better job of normalizing the fact that women can lead in these male-dominated occupations, and we have to allow women to own their own narrative,” Ceja explained.
When we normalize and highlight success stories of women leading in non-traditional occupations, it inspires other women to follow in their footsteps, she added.
We Must Encourage Women to Join Non-Traditional Industries
Changing the narrative about women in non-traditional occupations is crucial, according to Judaline Cassidy, founder and chief visionary officer of Tools & Tiaras Incorporated. For example, she said, many mothers and communities not see construction as a viable career option, even though construction (and many female professionals involved in the industry) are part of STEM.
Cassidy added that women need to know, not simply feel, they are welcome in these male-dominated fields.
“I think if companies make that shift and … if you want that portion and you want to make money, let us change the way we advertise and get the sisters into this job,” she said.
Intentionally encouraging women to join non-traditional occupations is at the core of Cassidy’s work as “the world’s feminist plumber.”
“I want to see more women in these jobs, especially since we’re going to invest so much money — let us do it with intentionally and [letting] women know that we do want [them] here,” she said.
Accomplishing a More Equitable Workforce Helps Everyone
Amanda Brophy, director of Grow with Google, noted that when real gender parity becomes a reality within the workforce, the United States economy will increase by an estimated $789 billion.
“A more equitable workforce helps everyone,” she said. “The more we can create this more equitable workforce wherever we are, regardless of industry … that is how we can benefit and help everyone.”
She added that this must be a collaborative effort; it can’t all be left to women.
“It’s about helping each other — women helping women, men helping women, women helping men,” Brophy continued. “In the end, the pie doesn't get smaller; it gets bigger. The only way we can have that bigger pie is to do it together and to support each other.”