- Isabella Lenarduzzi

Did we really do it?

In the next few months women will cross the 50% threshold and become the majority of the American workforce, according to the Economist’s article We did it!.

In the European Union women have filled 6m of the 8m new jobs created since 2000. Norway has the highest levels of female employment in the world. The future looks bright, the future looks positively female. Now that is positive news to kick off 2010.

Those who campaigned vociferously throughout the last century for this kind of liberation would, I am sure, be satisfied with our achievements today. High-flying careers bringing them on a par with men, financial independence and choice were mere dreams for previous generations of women. But let’s not be rejoicing too quickly for there is a cautionary note in this happy tale.

There are still many countries resisting change even if they do so at their peril, often wasting key talent that could help kick-start their economies. Women are still under represented in boardrooms everywhere. Despite its achievements, only 2% of women in the US are bosses of the country’s largest companies. According to the 20-first WOMENOMICS 101 Survey, almost 70% of the top companies in Europe don’t have any women on their Executive Committee. In Belgium, although 8% of women can be found in the boardrooms, 0% are CEOs of the largest companies.

You will be surprised to learn that Sweden, often hailed as a beacon of modernity in Europe, has less women in management than the US. One of the main reasons for this is that private companies are still put off by the burden of maternity leave.

Britain is on a par with the US when it comes to the dismal record for providing childcare. And, it is women who are largely, though no longer entirely, left trying to manage the work/life balance. This juggling act still prevents many women from realising their full potential and is challenging governments in Europe and beyond.

So there is still much work to be done.

But let’s not rain on the celebrations. We have come a long way in the last 50 years. Here’s to continuing the good work and pushing back the remaining barriers in 2010.