On January 21, hundreds of thousands of protestors–mainly women–filled the streets of Washington in response to the inauguration and proposed policies of President Donald Trump. Thousands more showed solidarity by participating in sister marches across America, vocalizing the need for reproductive and other rights.
Now, the organization behind the Washington march, the Women’s March group, says it’s going to hold another protest that could force thousands of companies nationwide to a temporary standstill.
What would happen if women workers suddenly weren’t on the job?
That’s the new question women are asking people everywhere to answer. As Jennifer Calfas of The Hill reports, the Women’s March group announced via social media posts that it was calling for a “General Strike: A Day Without a Woman”. The group still has to set a date for the event and provide additional details, but given the overwhelming response to the group’s initial Washington march, it’s not unreasonable to assume that participation in the strike also could be significant.
Why women might want a general strike
Women have made significant strides in business over the past several decades, and now, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), they comprise 46.8 percent of the entire U.S. workforce. Nevertheless, there’s still room for growth in that some industries still are overwhelmingly male. Consider the following BLS stats, for example, which show the percentage of women in specific fields:
Industrial production managers–18.3
Architectural and engineering managers–7.4
Personal finance advisors–37.9
Information security analysts–19.7
Environmental scientists and geoscientists–27.5
Broadcast and sound engineering technicians and radio operators–9.2
Grounds maintenance workers–6.4
Medical and health services managers–73.7
Meeting, convention and event planners–78.6
Paralegals and legal assistants–85.4
Education, training and library occupations–73.4
Healthcare practitioners and technical occupations–75.1
Healthcare support occupations–87.6
Food servers, non-restaurant–70.9
Waiters and waitresses–70.1
Maids and housekeeping cleaners–89.3
Hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists–94.2
Personal care aids–85.1
These statistics show that, although there are many fields where women enjoy employment on par with men, and notwithstanding the fact there likely are many men who would like to enter female dominated jobs, women still work to a great degree according to gender constructs. They are found less often in positions related to physical labor, technology, science and math and account for a large percentage of jobs related to traditionally “female” tasks (teaching, food provision, caregiving, housekeeping, beauty). Additionally, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, in 2015, females earned less than men in virtually every occupation where data is available to determine an earnings ratio, bringing home only about 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. Catalyst, Inc. further reports that women currently hold only 4.4 percent of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies. The LedBetter Project found that the percentage of women on boards and executive teams is 23 and 19 percent, respectively. This is despite the fact research indicates that companies with women in the C-suite are more profitable, with net margin increasing one percentage point for every two percent women gain in representation.
The potential effect of no women
Although the Women’s March group has yet to identify a central purpose behind the proposed strike, the event likely will emphasize the types of disparities outlined above, aiming to show just how large female contributions are in the workplace in an effort to equal the playing field. Some companies who have a relativity mixed workforce might not feel the effects of the strike at all, as they might be able to adjust scheduling to ensure full staffing. But others that have a predominantly female workforce, or that are too small to call in additional workers for the day, might not have that luxury. The strike also could affect other companies indirectly, such as if workers have to take personal time off because they cannot use their regular daycare or home care provider. The event also raises the question of what employers will do if workers take unapproved time off to participate. It could add insult to injury at a time when many businesses already are being boycotted or criticized for taking political stances.
On one hand, the strike is going to last only a day. But having thousands of women walk off the job might have long-reaching effects across industries. Regardless of whether you support or disagree with the approach and cause, knowing that it’s happening–and coming up with a plan to address it–is a good idea.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.