Women leaders deserve a better seat at the decision-makers table
By Alejandra M. Jover Tovar
Special to The Star
In a room filled to capacity, hundreds of island industry leaders, women and men, gathered earlier this week at the Fairmont El San Juan Hotel to hear the results of the “State of Working Women in Puerto Rico 2022” study.
The initiative, a collaborative effort between the Department of Labor and Human Resources (DTRH by its Spanish initials) and the organization Women Who Lead, which this year celebrates its 15th anniversary, also had the support of other private and public entities.
Also during Wednesday’s ceremony, awards were given to those employers with the “W-Certified Company” rating, presented by Women Who Lead to companies that have stood out as employers of choice for female talent.
Through a virtual survey, which was available for two months, 4,051 women workers from the private sector, government, and nonprofit organizations were interviewed, along with businesswomen and human resources personnel. In the survey, they expressed their feelings on issues such as inclusion, sexual and workplace harassment, pay equity, growth opportunities and finances.
“Through this study, which is being conducted for the first time on the island, we make history by collecting the feelings of thousands of women who for decades have asked to be heard in their claim for fair, equal treatment and where they are offered opportunities for growth and development that allow them to reach levels where only men have been able to position themselves,” DTRH Secretary Gabriel Maldonado González said. “The findings discussed will spearhead new initiatives that reinforce diversity, equity and inclusion, and promote better working conditions, wage justice, and work spaces free of harassment and bullying.”
Frances Ríos, CEO of Women Who Lead, said that “after 15 years of leading the issue of the importance of women’s inclusion in the workplace, we were able to validate how critical their position is in Puerto Rico.”
“The women raised their voices to alert the private sector and the government to take urgent measures to reverse what we have been warning about for years: that they feel a lack of commitment from their employers and that their stress levels are severely impacting them,” Ríos said. “Above all, their financial behavior will lead them to retire in poverty (most don’t have a retirement account or have been drawing money from their savings). The country’s economic reforms have to consider them if we want Puerto Rico to move forward.”
Among the female workers surveyed, the majority (44%) had a bachelor’s degree, followed by 32% with a master’s degree. As for businesswomen, 36% had a bachelor’s degree, and 29% had a master’s degree. Of the human resources managers, 118 participated in the survey; 52% belonged to private enterprises, while the rest belonged to government agencies.
Among the preliminary key findings, just over half (54%) of the leaders of organizations favor female leadership and inclusion, a figure that rises to 63% in the nonprofit sector.
On the subject of harassment, respondents were asked if they would feel safe to report it without suffering retaliation. In both the public and private sectors, 68% said yes, they would feel confident in doing so. On the subject of corporate training on anti-harassment and stalking policies, human resource managers were asked whether the company in which they work trains its personnel annually on hostile environments and sexual harassment issues. In the case of the government, the highest percentage was 91%. This was followed by private companies with 78% and nonprofit entities with 56%.
In this regard, the Labor secretary insisted that “everyone” has to establish policies and train their full workforce on those issues, following the instructions of Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia in this regard.
When asked if their supervisor has actively supported them in their development and growth, 65% of the women in the private sector answered in the affirmative. Nonprofit companies followed with 56%, followed by the government with 46%. Nonprofit employers that offer programs to support women’s professional development and growth accounted for 63% of the respondents. At the same time, 62% of government workers and 58% corresponding to private companies indicated that their employers offer such programs.
Knowing whether it is the employer’s policy to grant equal pay for equal work was also part of the discussion in the questionnaire. In this category, the government occupied the first position, with 43% of affirmative answers, followed by 39% of private companies and 33% of nonprofit organizations.
Flexible work arrangements tend to be more common in nonprofit entities, judging by the response of 60% of their workers. In second place was the government with 42% and private companies with 26%.
Part of the universe of those surveyed agreed that they would recommend their employer to other women. This response included 61% from the nonprofit sector, 47% private and 43% government.
Ríos emphasized during the event that women have to empower themselves in their leadership process and commented that many put aside their professional growth for their families, which men do not usually do.
“When a man is told he has to relocate, there goes the whole family. But if it’s a woman, she starts thinking about the children,” noted the CEO of Women Who Lead. “You have to swim against the current, and persistence and determination are key to getting where you want to go.”