What are ‘The Onlys’?

“The Onlys” is a term I recently came across as an article from Bloomberg. In a nutshell, it refers to women who are the only female in their workplace. It’s a term created by McKinsey&Company, in a study that revealed that 1 of 5 women felt this term was relevant to them. 2 of 5 women in senior or technical roles will also feel they are an Only. While many companies across America strive for gender inclusivity, the evidence in the actual workplace shows that not many of them are successful.

According to the McKinsey study, women are earning more bachelor degrees than men, and negotiating salaries just as much. While progress was being made, and undoubtedly more and more women are entering the workforce, the chart from this study makes it clear that the proportion of women moving up in the workforce hasn’t changed since 2015.

These numbers were surprising to me, but at the same time, not. Of course, I see many professional women in the workplace of all levels. They are qualified, smart, and good speakers. When I really think about it, there are more men surrounding them at their level than women. The conventional stereotype is that women don’t stay in the workforce as long as men because of the decision to start a family. However, men today aren’t those absent fathers of the 1960s – on average, fathers today put in 8 hours a week raising their child, as mothers put in 14 hours. While that doesn’t seem that much, this means that fathers are spending 5.5 more hours on average a week, but we still have the stereotype that a woman will drop their career once they want a family.

Being a young woman in the workforce for the first time, it worries me a little that societal expectations are hindering corporate efforts. If everyone else (the public and/or shareholders) don’t see it as an important issue, there is no incentive for companies to change. While I am lucky to not be one of the Onlys, I feel there might be some gender discrimination coming my way when I get closer to my 30s. Despite the lack of female senior management, I am still proud that there are about equal numbers of male and female hires of my position, and that my male superiors are extremely supportive of my growth.

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