In the US today, women make up about half the workforce. But we still aren't earning as much as men, rising as high, or having an equal voice in decision-making. When are we going to see gender equality? We asked business students around Boston what they thought. I feel like to actually get to real gender parity will probably take 30 to 50 years. I think it will definitely take another 10 years. I really hope it will be in the next five to 10 years. In 2025. 2030. I think that we are 50-plus years out.
I don't think equality will ever happen. Well, at the rate we're moving in the US, research says we're not going to see gender equality for another 208 years. What? How do you react to that? Oh, wow. Oh, wow. Wow. OK, 200 years, uh--200 years? I won't even be alive. When I found out it was 208 years away for gender equality, I quite simply couldn't believe it because I think somewhere in my mind I thought we were maybe 60 years away.
This is Melinda Gates. She's got a plan to get us to gender equality in our lifetime. I started to say to myself, my gosh, we have to do something about this now. So what's slowing us down? More women are working than ever in the United States, but we aren't represented equally. And we're not represented in the really key sectors, such as public office, academia, tech, investing, entrepreneurship, media. Those particular industries are having an outsized impact in the United States.
And so if women don't have equal representation there, we don't have seats at the table always on setting policies, making funding decisions, deciding what the workplace of the future should be. Inequality isn't some big abstract concept. It's a very real challenge women face in school and throughout their careers. When I entered college, I was actually quite surprised, particularly in my computer science classes, how few women were studying computer science.
And then when I entered business school right after undergraduate, again, I was kind of surprised how many of the women weren't going after the finance jobs that men were going after coming out of business school. Then it, for the first time, really started to be on my mind about the difference between men and women, even in the college and business school level.
I had my first week of classes of my sophomore year of college. My second class the day was my higher level finance 3301 class. And at first, it was me and then a few guys, not anything abnormal. And then there were more guys and more guys. And then the professor showed up, and class started. And I was the only girl in the room. Maybe I looked uncomfortable because I was the only girl in the room, or maybe it was because I don't like professors that cold call on you. But he said, Kate's really wondering what she got herself into being in this class. And every single guy in the classroom, including the professor, laughed, which made me feel so discouraged, so uncomfortable.
I managed a team before I went on maternity leave. And they did awesome while I was out. And instead of that being a reflection of how well they had been trained and mentored to enable their success, it was seen as: I was no longer needed.
Clearly, we've got a problem. So what do we do about it? Here's what Melinda says business leaders need to do now. They need to look at their workplace and say, is this working for families and for women? We know most women have families. And so do we have a true paid family medical leave policy? And are we making sure that women and men are taking it? Do we have the right networks for women? Are we creating pathways into these jobs for women? Are we making sure that, once they're here, they're supported both in terms of mentorship but also sponsorship into really key roles?
In practice, this could be managers looking at the data to see how well women are represented in their companies, offering more paid internships in key sectors like tech or government, making sure women are getting the challenging, worthwhile assignments, not just the busywork. What are the barriers that hold women back? Where do we have bias in our systems and in our workplace? And how do we tear that down and change things so women have the same opportunities as men?
Wait, can I start over? Am I too serious? Should I smile a little more? Do you want me to stand like this? Like this? I hate talking about gender parity. Nobody should have to talk about gender parity. It should just be a natural thing that happens.