Just over half of the workforce in the United States is now female, surpassing men for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis and ensuing recession, according to a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That recession was led by the male-heavy industries of construction and manufacturing. 

This is also payroll growth and doesn't account for the people (men and women) who work as independent contractors or who are self-employed or who work on farms. This means that more women than men--albeit slightly more--are employees. Men still dominate in the other groups, but for regular W2 employees, women take the lead.

Unemployment figures look great for all groups, which is excellent news as well, but it's interesting to look at the change in the labor market for women. 

Much of the growth of women's percent comes from the type of work being done--women make up 77 percent of healthcare and education employees. My children's doctors and dentists have always been female, as are most of their teachers. (My 5th grader currently has a male teacher, but he's the first male elementary school teacher either of my children have had.)

Male heavy industries, which crashed during the recession, would tip the scales back the other way should construction increase. And, it's likely that when the summer construction season begins, men will regain their majority status.

But, regardless of how far the scale tips over that 50 percent mark, it's notable that the workforce is pretty evenly split. Women earn more degrees than men. (In 2016-2017, women earned 57.3 percent of bachelor's degrees  59.4 percent of master's degrees and 53.3 percent of doctorate degrees.)

Men do, on average, earn more than women, but that is mostly a function of jobs. Women dominate in education, which is typically not a high earning field. Healthcare, another female-dominated industry, has plenty of highly paid roles, but also a lot of low paid positions. Jobs such as Certified Nursing Assistants are low paid (averaging $12.38 per hour) and 90 percent female

It will be interesting to watch how the makeup of the workforce change as time progresses. With more women earning degrees, will we see more men as stay at home dads? Perhaps. Will we see more women staying in the workforce instead of temporarily leaving to raise children? Perhaps. For right now, though, if you see someone going to work---it's more likely to be a woman than a man. 

Published on: Jan 14, 2020
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