For the first time since the 2008 Financial Crisis, where women took a brief lead in the workforce, women have surpassed men in the percentage of people on the payroll according to the Labor Department.
In fact, of the just 145,000 jobs added to the workforce this past month, 95% of those jobs were awarded to women. And this milestone is expected to last. Betsy Stevenson, an economist at the University of Michigan who served during the Obama Administration says “I feel very strongly that a year from now, their share will continue to be over 50%,”.
As women creep past 50% of the national workforce, there is a lot to be addressed in how this milestone has come to be, what it means, and how it will manifest itself in our society. It is important to know that while this is a monumental break for women and female-identifying persons, it comes with its own set of challenges.
These statistics are influenced by the reality that while women may be entering the workforce en masse, they continue to be underpaid and in hospitality-related fields. In fact, of the jobs that were entered into the workforce this past month, most of them were low-paying.
Because of this, there is no pressure on high-paying jobs, which fails to address low wages or the staggering 50-year low we find unemployment rates at.
Additionally, the study excludes both self-employed persons and farm employees, categories which are largely male-dominated.
Other traditionally masculine workforce categories included in this study, such as mining, logging, and manufacturing, have been on a steady decline. Yet women hold 77% of the jobs in the health care and education category, both fast-growing female-dominated industries.
However, these statistics are balanced out by categories such as construction, a largely male-dominated field, which has been on a steady incline since the 2008 Housing Crisis. Industries which are typically female-dominated have also been on the rise for awhile, leading economists to believe that perhaps this milestone will be lasting.
The nuances in these studies are important to understand when analyzing what this statistic means for the workforce as it affects our society day to day.
Overall, the influx in jobs offers the potential to pave the way for future women and other marginalized groups, as well as real policy changes in the way of family and women’s rights. Having more women in the workforce benefits everyone.
Monuments such as these remind of us the strides women have made in the past and the places we hope to go in the future.
As the number of women admitted into the workforce increases, the ability for gender equality among different fields increases, as well as the importance of advocating for flexible hours and paid family leave.
It also encourages us to think of the people left out of this statistic. Because it analyzes men and women’s experiences in the job market, it falls woefully short in analyzing the full spectrum of gender identity and experiences.