I’m sure you’ve heard it before – “there are fewer Women CEOs Than Ones Named John.” A 2015 New York Times article exposed that among CEOs in the S&P 1500 firms, women are still very far from reaching the top. In fact, there are also fewer women CEOs than ones named David. With just 16% of S&P 1500 companies boasting a female CEO, the outlook can seem bleak for young millennial women like me.
But there is hope. The 2015 U.S. Census revealed that for the first time since data collection began in 1940, women were more likely to complete a bachelor’s degree than men. Breaking down bachelor’s degrees by major, NPR’s Planet Money showed that men outnumbered women in computer science and engineering, women outnumbered men in health, education, and humanities, and the split was rather even in math, science, and business. We see women outnumbering men at the graduate level, as well, with more women completing doctorates and master’s degrees than men. However, men take the lead in graduate programs in areas that are typically associated with higher paying jobs, including business, engineering, mathematics, computer science, and physical sciences. Despite these gaps, as we look at female enrollment, 2018 is sure to bring further advances as 2017 just saw the first medical school class in U.S. history to be comprised of more women than men.
Thinking about these higher education statistics, specifically those regarding bachelor’s degrees, I see why I have not yet truly felt what can seem like the burden of being a woman in today’s world. On my campus, the gender split is almost exactly even, and I consider my female counterparts to be just as qualified as any male student in the classroom. As a senior, I am watching my girlfriends fight just as hard for the best jobs, and they’re getting them. At a first glance, it seems that everything is equal. But that’s only half the story.
Last semester, together with two of my peers, I engaged in a research project regarding Vanderbilt women and the finance and consulting career search. After conducting a survey of 111 Vanderbilt students comprised of males and females, various grade levels, and multiple races, we found that the story I had witnessed within my group of friends was not whole. We first noticed that the raw interest for women in pursuing finance professions (18%) was lower than their curiosities in other fields, such as healthcare (31%), consulting (31%), and public policy, government, and law (21%). We further found that women interested in banking, finance, and consulting attended fewer on-campus recruiting events than men: 43% of females interested in these fields went to these events, while 71% of males went to the same events. The purpose of our project was to expose a need for a peer-to-peer female mentorship program that could help underclassmen women connect with upperclassmen women to receive much-needed advice regarding the banking and consulting career search and application process.
While we never implemented our program, partly due to similar programs that already exist within Vanderbilt Women in Business and the Vanderbilt Career Center, I continue to find the topic fascinating. I see it so interesting, in fact, that I spent a good part of my fall semester pseudo-mentoring various underclassmen through the internship application process with resume and cover letter execution and mock interview practice.
See, what I can’t comprehend is that women are outnumbering men in school, so why aren’t we able to do so in work? Many of the reasons have been talked about for decades – the pay gap, starting a family, etc. But can’t we change that? Why does our generation have to be subject to the same unfairness as those before us? It’s time for feminequity to reach the boardroom, and I can’t wait to be a part of that movement.
I imagine The Feminequity Factor will largely focus on this area – career. I can’t think of something I am more passionate about than advancing the interests of women in the workplace, especially young women who have their entire careers ahead of them. This section is where I’ll offer what I’ve learned through three and a half years of school and four internships in hospitality, digital healthcare, consulting, and finance regarding the job search, networking, applications, interviewing, interning, and more. Here’s my advice – peer to peer – on how to own the job search and come out feeling fantastic.
It’s time that the number of Janes equals the number of Johns. Are you with me?