In December 2019, for the second time in history, women in the workforce outnumbered men. The first time the number of women in the paid workforce topped 50 percent was in early 2010 in the aftermath of the Great Recession.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Employment Situation for December 2019 reported that total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 145,000. Women took 139,000 of those jobs, which brought their share of the workforce to slightly 50.04 percent of jobs.
The shift toward more women in the workforce—though slight—is expected to continue.
Trends Leading to More Women in the Workforce
“One reason for the trend towards more women in the workforce is the increase over the last few decades of women earning college degrees,” says Andreas Wilderer, a business coach and author of Lean On: The Five Pillars Of Support For Women in Leadership.
“In 1981, for the first time, women received more bachelor’s degrees than men, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. More recently, 57 percent of college degrees earned in 2017 were earned by women,” says Wilderer.
“Increasing access to education will likely lead to more women—and people in general—entering and reentering the workforce at different ages and from different socioeconomic classes,” adds Mada Seghete, co-founder and head of strategy at Branch, a deep linking and mobile attribution platform.
Additional trends leading to more women in the workforce include:
Fast-Growing Female-Dominated Industries
A trend that has led to more women in the workforce is the increase in fast-growing industries that historically attract a majority of women workers. (Think education and healthcare.)
“Careers and professions that were traditionally male-driven or female-driven have flipped or are balancing out into a healthy mix of representation,” says Joshua Goldstein, an immigration lawyer and founder of Goldstein Immigration Lawyers.
“You see this in many verticals, including healthcare, marketing, business administration, tech and slowly but surely, law,” he says. “I believe you're going to see more and more roles changing as time goes on.”
It’s important for business owners to understand that women are going to be an increasingly vital part of the workforce going forward. This isn’t a phase or a statistical aberration. It’s a trend that's accelerating and here to stay.
—Greg Baumgartner, owner, Baumgartner Law Firm
Another area were women dominate is human resources, notes Joseph Quan, CEO at Twine, a company offering analytics software for HR personnel and CEOs.
“Women make up a majority of HR professionals, managers and senior leaders,” he says. “A vast majority—80 percent or more—of Chief People Officers we work with are women. The most innovative companies are rapidly elevating the HR function, bringing more and more women into the C-suite.”
Necessity for Dual-Income Households
Another factor leading to more women in the workforce is the fact that many families require a dual income.
“According to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018, 48.8 percent of families in the US were dual income,” says Wilderer. “The traditional idea that women need to stay home and take care of the house and kids is not the predominant reality anymore.”
Rise in Acceptance of Remote Work
A major contributor to the rise in women in the workforce is the continued increase in remote work, believes Quan.
“One of the big drivers we’ve seen for professional workers has been the rise and acceptance of remote work,” he says.
“In areas like engineering, design, and even sales, the proven success of remote distributed teams has had a profound impact,” Quan continues. “Remote work allows for more flexibility managing life necessities, like childcare. We’ve seen more and more candidates—women and men alike—who won’t consider accepting a role if it doesn’t allow for at least partial remote work.”
“The lack of talent has also pushed employers to be more creative and flexible in who they hire,” says Larry Rubin, senior partner with Gregory Sparzo at Talent Partners, an executive search and human capital consulting company. “When talent is scarce, employers are more likely to hire workers from a wide variety of backgrounds.”
The increasing participation of women in the workforce is helping companies find qualified staff members, agrees personal injury lawyer Greg Baumgartner, owner of Baumgartner Law Firm.
“When you consider that industries of every type are seeing valuable members of their teams retire and leave the workforce, taking their hard-won-skills and experience with them, it’s fortunate that we're finally tapping into the vast pool of talented female workers,” he says.
“Here in the legal profession, we've suffered from a lack of female workforce participation for decades,” continues Baumgartner. “Law firms were traditionally male-dominated and top-heavy, which made it a tough road for female lawyers to rise through the ranks and find success. Now, though, it's obvious the gap in the numbers of male and female lawyers is all but gone amongst my younger colleagues. The profession should soon come into balance.”
“It’s important for business owners to understand that women are going to be an increasingly vital part of the workforce going forward,” says Baumgartner. “This isn’t a phase or a statistical aberration. It’s a trend that's accelerating and here to stay.”
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