This article was originally published in Working Mother Magazine in 2017.
There's no doubt that 2017 was a whirlwind of a year—the last 12 months have brought their fair share of challenges and scandals. Our country is coping with the aftermath of an array of mass shootings, bombings, data breaches, hurricanes and wildfires but, nevertheless, we persist.
And, while it might be difficult to see the good amid all the bad, there’s also been a lot of positive things that happened to combat it all. Like the time Southwest Airlines flew a plane full of puppies to help them escape from Hurricane Harvey. Or the time 80 heroic bystanders formed a human chain to save that drowning family on a Florida beach. Also in Florida, high school students started the club, We Dine Together, so that no one has to eat lunch alone. Heck, a 16-year-old got Wendy’s to send him free chicken nuggets for a year by the sheer power of Twitter. Wendy's then donated $100,000 to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, to which Wilkerson asked his own followers to donate.
Jackie Robinson got his own museum. Unicorn food became a thing. The Ken doll got a hipster makeover. Men started wearing rompers. It was, overall, a year for the books. As for women around the world (and universe), well, Peggy Whitson—the first woman to command the International Space Station—broke the U.S. record for the most cumulative days spent in orbit. A royal decree lifted the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia. The voices of workplace sexual harassment victims across the U.S. were finally heard. And studies show that women have moved into more leadership roles across all industries, including the male-dominated Silicon Valley with companies as big as PayPal.
So what might 2018 have in store, particularly for women in the workplace? We asked people to weigh in on their predictions for the new year.
Inclusivity-Specific Corporate Protocol
“You’ll see an increase in turnkey process and regular conversations with employees about what companies can do to make the workplace more inclusive,” says Nicola Corzine, executive director of the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center in San Francisco. “Right now, companies may be afraid to ask for fear of what their staffs will say, but it’s better for long-term for culture to proactively address these things.”
An Increase in Diversity of Boards of Directors
“Expect this to soar in 2018,” Corzine adds.
More Women in Leadership Roles
“This year has been a rollercoaster for women—we’ve been living out our own live movie across television, Twitter and news media in all channels and, for most of us, it’s felt like a horror flick,” says Jessica Higgins, public speaker, strategic consultant and author. “Our seat in the White House disappeared overnight. Our seats at the leadership table were compromised across the entire tech industry. We had to watch our fellow lady heroes suffer. Every one of us in certain industries, and all the way up to Arianna Huffington. Then our rights to control our reproductive health were stripped from us and given to our employers. Then, in true plot twist fashion, we discovered our employers had been violating many of us sexually. It’s been a tough year for women to say the least.
“But fear not, fellow superwomen. Now is the time for us to press forward. Remember that the hero always wins. Also remember that it’s the girls who fall down in the horror movies who get slashed to bits. On your toughest day, repeat to yourself the following mantra, “I am not Paris Hilton in House of Wax. I am not Paris Hilton in House of Wax.” Remember that we watched this year unfold. This means that we got the conversation going across our country in 2017. If we push forward with our careers in 2018, it can very well be our year. Finally, a year of women leading us to a better future. It’s possible because we’ve worked hard. We’ve persevered ... And we haven’t been wasting our careers on sexually harassing our male coworkers. We’re primed to take on the role as leaders. Wherever you are in your career right now, get your skills together, look out for the right time, and then speak up. 2018 can very well be the year for women in leadership.”
“We will be more vocal—especially after #MeToo and all of the media around scandals in Hollywood, it's no longer a taboo thing to talk about,” says Kaeli Sweigard, the communications manager at The Canadian Council of Churches. “I have zero qualms about pointing out sexism and double standards to my bosses (all men) because I'm not scared. I think many women are no longer scared.”
More Funding for Female Entrepreneurs
"My biggest prediction for women in 2018 is that venture capital firms will continue growth that emphasizes providing women entrepreneurs with funding for their small businesses,” says Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com. “SheEO, BBG Ventures and WE Capital are just a handful of the US- and internationally-based firms working to provide women entrepreneurs with funds, and cities like New York City are paving the way forward for women running businesses in a variety of industries. I predict that, in 2018, more firms will be established to help women fund their start-ups and more cities will be recognized for their efforts in funding female-led businesses.”
Civil Workplaces for Women in STEM
“Women represent 57 percent of the total workforce, according to the Department of Labor, yet only 12 percent of the total workforce in engineering,” says Juli Smith, president of the Smith Consulting Group, LLC. “It’s always been a male-dominated field despite efforts from organizations such as The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and others to encourage STEM careers for women. More women are entering the profession but more are also leaving because of the way they are being treated in the workplace. An ASCE study done in 2012 showed that many women left the industry because of low morale, a lack of support from their male supervisors and an 'uncivil' workplace environment."
Opportunities Based on Skill (and Also Equal Pay)
“The pay has not been equal for women and their male counterparts in most firms, but with many states moving toward regulations to eliminate the ‘what are you currently earning question,’ this may actually increase the opportunity for pay equity,” Smith also says. “Offers for employment will be based on her skill and how it relates to the position—and not on what she was making at her last job.”
Stronger Systems for Reporting Sexual Harassment
“In 2018, workplaces will establish stronger and better systems for reporting and investigating claims of sexual assault, and firings will be swift once a pattern of behavior is acknowledged,” says Ellen Scully, founder of The Rising Tides. “Companies that have not addressed or analyzed their internal cultural problems will see an increase in reported incidents, and they will not have in place the corrective procedures to handle them, leading potentially to higher visibility and crisis that could have been avoided. Companies that are now addressing—or are planning in early 2018 to examine their cultures to identify and fix problems—will avoid bigger crises by recreating their policies to mirror more closely what they want their organization to be."
Negotiating Power for Women
“Women will have stronger negotiating power in hiring decisions, promotions and funding,” Scully adds. “The right companies are setting the bar higher for the laggards, and savvy businesswomen are becoming more aware of the most desirable places to work.”
“I hold an optimistic outlook for women in business in 2018,” says Dasha Moore, COO and founder of Solodev. “In recent years, we’ve seen strong women break through male-dominated industries and command respect. I believe we’re finally at a point where those women have established themselves and can bring other women to the table. The broader issues of equal pay, expectations of the work/home life dichotomy, sexual harassment in the workplace, gender gaps in industries will only be addressed when women have a larger role in decision-making positions in the workplace. And as more women find themselves in elevated positions, I think those issues will slowly dissipate. Will everything be resolved in 2018? No. But will there be important steps in the right direction? I believe so. I have hope. Make no mistake, women have momentum, and we are on the move.”
The Recognition of Women’s Rights
“I think that women entering the workplace in 2018 can look forward to a greater sense of equality (based on their experience and education, of course) or at least know that they have the right to voice their concerns or any unfairness at their place of work, without the fear of being ostracized or condemned by society at large,” says Nate Masterson, marketing manager for Maple Holistics. “This is largely due to a cultural shift that has occurred for a variety of reasons (media representations, dispelling myths and biases and seeing more women in powerful positions, etc.) and has had knock-on effects within the corporate and business world—even politics has changed dramatically in this sense. “I think women feel more empowered now to take their futures into their own hands rather than being subservient or having to fit some model that’s perpetuated by the male gaze (especially true in the world of business). This is a very freeing time for women and I think that the more that they pursue their goals and dreams, the more society will adapt around them and their needs—within reason of course, this kind of socio-political stuff doesn’t happen overnight. While I do not believe that 2018 will be the year in specific where everything changes for women in the workplace all at once, I think that the air of latent chauvinism and male dominance that’s been exposed in 2017 will help to pave a better path for women moving forward. The more we’re reminded that this is still an issue, the more we’re likely to do something about it.”
Insurance Companies Will Get Involved in Sexual Harassment
“More insurance companies will demand that companies start taking steps to prevent sexual harassment,” says Michael Rosenberg, president of WPV Corp. “As rates rise, insurance companies will start demanding companies take risk assessments of their organizations and ways to enforce policies and procedures throughout the organization.”
“After the watershed moment of #MeToo in 2017, coupled with increased focus on body positive imaging, more women will have courage to speak up in 2018,” believes Ashley René Casey, owner of Be Bold and Speak. “I think many women experienced things in their past they might have dismissed but, after this year, those very things resurfaced. Knowing they are not alone will give those women the confidence they need to prevent similar things from happening again."
Unapologetic Feminism, Camaraderie and Confidence
“Despite the negative causes, 2017 was a landmark year in normalizing and empowering women to speak out in situations that previously would have had negative implications for them,” says Lauren Bello, partner at Ready Set Rocket in New York City. “As a result, I think there is a lot of positive energy and momentum for women who have found their voice as it relates to women's equality and empowerment. While words like ‘feminism’ can have a negative connotation, we’re seeing a groundswell of unapologetic celebrations of feminism and women’s rights from women and men alike.
“In the workplace, this translates into more women proactively stepping into mentorship and leadership positions. This doesn’t mean formal promotions or reporting structures—instead, women feeling empowered and motivated to set an example, women helping create paths forward for the those coming up below them, and women becoming invested in the success of the women around them. There is an air of camaraderie, determination and a sense of common purpose that is driving teamwork and energy I haven't seen before. “With this shift in mentality and built-in support system comes empowerment for self-growth. I anticipate more and more women becoming confident and assertive as it relates to knowing their worth, and as a result, asking for the opportunities or appropriate compensation tied to it. Of course, this won’t shift everything or close the wage gap overnight, but when confident and assertive women demand that their worth become the norm, we can’t help but move the needle."
More Male Allies
“I’ve seen a huge shift in men speaking out on behalf of women’s rights,” Bello adds. “This is integral to shifting the idea of feminism being a women’s cause vs. a human cause. As the negative connotation shifts, the conversation becomes less about villainizing women and more about a strive toward equality. Men are as big a part of this charge as women are. I believe more and more men will plant their stake in the ground on the topics of standing up for women, speaking out against men who give them a bad name and helping to contribute toward a more open and equal workplace.” —AnnaMarie Houlis