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By 2022, We'll Need Huge Binders For All the Women

Binders full of women. When Gov. Romney uttered this phrase last night while talking about workplace inequality, it became an instant Internet meme. Trap her, keep her!

Gov. Romney's "binders full of women" comment caught my ear, because I immediately thought of a new Booz and Co. survey that I wasn't going to blog about that says one billion women will enter the workforce worldwide over the coming decade. Man, employers will need to invest in some awfully big binders, and soon! Maybe microfiche or bigger servers will be in order? Or maybe we can store working women in "the cloud"? We do live in the digital age, after all.

Young women in particular aren't feeling partly-cloudy about their career prospects: A new Pew Research Center survey finds more young women than young men in the 18-to-34 age range value starting a high-paying career. Exactly two-thirds (66%) of the young women Pew surveyed said that getting their careers going is their number-one priority, compared to 59% of young men. Plus, there are at least 10 advantages to being a woman in the workplace these days. Sisters are doing it for themselves.

But U.S. working women are still struggling to move up the ladder and earn good money, according to Booz and Co. Business Strategist and Partner Penney Frohling:

"In the U.S…there are women living hand-to-mouth in low-waged jobs and 41 percent of their salaries are taken over by childcare costs — so there's really no way of getting ahead when you're facing those kind of [obstacles]," she said.

Ah, childcare. The stuffed elephant in the conference room of any good salary and work-life balance discussion.

If working women are choosing motherhood at all, that is. The number of American women exiting their child-bearing years without children in tow has doubled. And what about American women who are turning to self-employment, either full-time or part-time, as a means of self-fulfillment and work-life balance? Personally speaking, it would sure be nice to see self-employed women running one-person micro-businesses become a part of the candidates' workplace discussions, too. Not every working woman wants to be a Fortune 500 employee, but our political debates and punditry round-ups can sure make it sound that way sometimes. It's far past time to add more employment diversity to the discussion.

Personally, I was stunned by Gov. Romney's comments on women in the workplace and equal pay. If women are going to be in the workplace? Women already comprise more than half the U.S. workforce, and our ranks are only going to grow. For the vast majority of women, it's not a question of if they work outside the home, but when.

American families of all forms, shapes and sizes are doing what we need to do to get by in this economy. We're busy trying to make work work for us, and all families are unique ecosystems. It's getting harder and harder to generalize about family issues -- however each of us defines the term "family" -- and that's why it's so hard to find a one-size-fits-all solution. But we -- employers, employees, and our elected leaders -- should keep trying to find new, innovative ways to make work work for all of us. Maybe the best answer is sitting in a big binder somewhere. Or in the cloud.

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