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  • Writer's pictureDr. Juhanna Rogers, PH.D

Elevating the Conversation on Women & Equity in the Workforce

Featured in CEO Essentials, Mar. 2021, CenterState CEO monthly newsletter

March is the celebration of Women’s History Month. When we think about equity it is critical to remember that women, both white and women of color, continue to navigate the challenges of managing roles, responsibilities, and opportunities in the business community.

Prior to 2020, there were signs that women were shattering glass ceilings and making great strides across sectors, however, the presence and voices of women are still few and faint when we examine leadership tables. A Diligent Institute study identifies that board roles for women grew from 19.6% in 2017 to 24.3% in 2019 on Russell 1000 company boards. However, only 22% of board members globally are female, and only 7% are board chairs.1

The election of our first female vice president in this nation is a major step forward. However, there is more work to do to normalize the role of women in leadership positions. Women leaders are slow to grow into executive leadership roles and retention and turnover rates remain higher for women than men. Additionally, women entrepreneurs often struggle to find the financial capital to be as competitive as male peers in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. In 2017, all-male companies attracted nearly 80% of capital, while companies founded by all women received only 2% of funding.3 Long story short, the road for women, and women of color, is still one to be paved. And the challenges brought on by COVID-19 has not helped matters.

In recent months, the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women in the workforce has increasingly become national headlines. As of January 2021, nationally there were 9.8 million fewer jobs than before the pandemic; of those, women lost about 55%.3 Data also shows that these job losses were felt most significantly among Black and Latina women: Latinas have the highest unemployment rate at 9.1%, followed by Black women at 8.4%, compared to white men who have an unemployment rate of 5.4%.4 Additionally, 154,000 Black women left the labor force permanently, nationwide (December 2020), marking the largest one-month drop in their labor force size since March and April 2020.5 President Biden has also called the women dropping out of the workforce a “national emergency.”

During the pandemic, women have also stepped up to fill the gap in childcare and education for their families. The service industry has been heavily impacted by the pandemic, with many cutting back or closing their doors, again disproportionally impacting women who often fill these roles.

With these challenges, we must ask ourselves, what challenges are ahead of us when it comes to supporting and filling the void of women working in our community? Companies should think critically to consider how these gender nuances impact their staffs, HR policies practices, and hiring/recruitment and retention efforts, and then explore what types of support may be required. Collectively, we must ask what we are doing as a business community to support the presence and well-being of women in the workplace and the economy. If the downward spiral continues what will happen to the role of women, their families and their contributions to our economy?

I invite you to join us for a conversation on March 16 to explore these topics further. Session two of our Racial Equity and Social Impact Trainings explores the intersections of race, gender and business in a thought-provoking panel discussion with women leaders in their fields. Panelists include: Dr. Malika Carter, chief diversity officer, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry; Charlene Tarver, founder and executive director, Women’s Economic Institute, Inc.; and Joann M. Yarrow, director of Community Engagement and Education, Syracuse Stage, founder and CEO of Live Animation Studios and Distinctive Voices. Register to engage here.

-Dr. J.


Dr. Juhanna Rogers is vice president of Racial Equity and Social Impact at CenterState CEO. Contact Dr. Rogers at to learn more about racial equity and social impact initiatives, DEI training courses and consultation services available through CenterState CEO.

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