Gender Equity and the Workplace: Has Anything Changed?

There’s no question that women gained ground in workplace equity in the last 40 years. More women work in management and executive positions now than ever. Still, gender equity is elusive. But, the labor statistics for the last half of 2019 tell a surprising story. Here’s what they show.

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Women Move In

No matter what the sector, whether it’s the military, government, business or academia, women traditionally had and still have a difficult time reaching upper-level management positions. But, when women manage to break the barriers, such as financial professional Daniella Rand, featured in this ValueWalk article, they excel.

The fact that women have broken through the barriers and do so in higher numbers serves as an inspiration to younger women entering male-dominated fields.

The Economy Weighs In

Job growth slowed at the end of 2019. But, within the same Labor Department report detailing the job growth slowdown, two surprises emerged. First, though the U.S. only added 145,000 jobs in December, 95% of those jobs went to women. And, second, for only the second time in history, women held over half of all payroll jobs in the U.S.

The first time women held more nonfarm payroll jobs was during the Great Recession of December 2007 – June 2009. At the beginning of the downturn, employees laid off male employees at a significantly higher rate than female employees. Women, however, experienced layoffs shortly after and the advantage proved to be temporary.

Is It Different This Time?

Will women’s status of holding over half of the payroll jobs in the U.S. stand? Experts believe this time is different.

University of Michigan economist Betsey Stevenson expects women to hold the edge into the future. Why is this time different from what happened during the Great Recession? It’s different because women had a higher rate of hire than men this time around.

Another reason is that the economy in the U.S. has been in the process of shifting from a manufacturing, a male-dominated industry, to a service-sector economy for several years. Women workers outnumber men in service-related industries.

But that brings up another problem. While the service industry welcomes women, it also pays less than the traditionally male-dominated industries. Will the gender wage gap ever close?

Women Lead Change

As more women work and move up into upper-management roles, opportunities to formulate significant change grows. Paid family leaves, flexible schedules, more and better paid sick leave benefits, professional development programs, and telecommuting options become possible when women lead the charge.

Obstacles Remain

Of course, women face workplace obstacles men don’t because they are female. Pregnancy and childrearing often disrupt a woman’s career progression. Women still carry the bulk of responsibility in the home when it comes to child care and housework as well.

Then there’s the wage gap. The wage gap lessened, but men still hold a significant advantage. With more women in power, perhaps that, too, will change.

Women entering the workforce now have more education than their male counterparts. Women begin their careers highly qualified and ready to meet the challenges of their chosen field, whether it’s academia, business, military or government. The future of the economy is in the hands of women.

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