Women Now Outnumber Men In The Workforce – What Does This Mean for Our Future?

In February 2010, The New York Times reported that, for the first time in recorded history, women outnumbered men on the nation’s payrolls.

What does this mean for the American workforce?

Unfortunately, women’s ascendance in the workplace is partially related to the recent recession. More men work in industries hit harder by the recession, such as financial services, manufacturing and construction. Women tend to predominate in industries such as education and healthcare, which have not lost as many jobs. Since December of 2008, women lost a total of 1.66 million jobs, while men lost almost three times that much, at 4.75 million. Men’s higher salaries – women still only earn 77% of what men make – also put them first on the chopping block.

As the job market stabilizes, older, experienced women appear to be on track to be the first hired back.

• Recent data shows women-owned businesses will create up to 5.5 million jobs by 2018, more than 50% of the number of jobs expected to be created by all small businesses in that time. According to the research, this will be due to the customer focus of many woman-led businesses as well as the sense of community they foster and their ability to help others succeed.

The business world is changing from a “women can’t do this job” environment to a “we need more women” environment.

• As women are taking over the skilled professional workforce, the Internet has helped destroy the “Old Boy’s Network” approach to doing business and leveled the playing field.

On the Internet, explains recruiting and career expert Paige Rhodes, “people can comparison shop for products and services quickly and easily. Your online identity is not tied so much to who you are as it is to what you can do – so you no longer have to belong to the country club to get the attention of a prospective client or employer. You can compete based on merits, and not just based on whom you know.”

Such a drastic shift has forced multinational corporations to take note – and ensure their products and services appeal to female consumers. And because it’s women, not men, who are starting more businesses, it will be women who will one day employ a majority of workers.

In the United States, nearly all net job creation since 1980 has been generated by firms operating for fewer than five years, and that number is only likely to rise as more companies outsource to countries with cheaper labor. “The job creation [we] need … is not going to come from corporations, it’s going to come from small businesses,” says Harvard business professor Nancy Koehn. “With that in mind, what we need to start thinking about is how we capitalize on this [vast network] of women entrepreneurs.”

Established corporations are starting to realize that women may be their best hope. Major companies are spending increasing amounts of time and money mentoring female employees because they consider them a key competitive edge in the global talent wars. Many studies show that companies with more women on their boards do better financially than those with less.

Why do women improve business? Recent research from the London Business School suggests that productivity levels go up when men and women work together in tandem – in part because gender parity counters the idea of group-think. Whatever the reason, there is clearly a business case for workplace equality.

“I think women are really going to shake up the workplace over the next 15 years,” says Koehn. “This is just the beginning of a tsunami of change – and it’s far bigger than any single organization.”

Views: 618

Comment by bill josephson on June 3, 2011 at 11:36am

As a 30 year recruiter I've seen this trend incrementally happening my entire recruiting career.  After each recession we've had there's always a startling new business approach.  In the early 80's we went from manual to computerized systems in the high tech boom, in the 90's we went from IBM Mainframe to PC computing to internet computing, in the early 2000's from US jobs creation to offshore outsourcing/unrestrained access to cheap labor, and now it will turn to vast numbers of women employees competing with lower waged foreign workers as traditional male jobs like construction and manufacturing disappear and the new jobs created will be in more women's domains including healthcare and social services.  Key factor is as men's income shrinks and women's rise the products and employment will gear more towards women as they have the purchasing power.


What does all this portend for the future?  For one, we no longer need to give girls educational advantages they've enjoyed in public education for the roughly last 30 years over boys--it's the boys in trouble.  So while celebrating more women in the workforce I believe we should at least consider what alienated obsolete men's societal impact will be. 


I expect lots of societal turmoil and less male personal responsibility going forward with no incentive to be so.  The women looking for suitable husbands will be relegated to fighting over a dwindling pool of marriage material men.  Why marry a guy who'll be an economic ball and chain around her? 


So while business is set for enormous change, which I 100% agree with I'd also suggest some dot connecting prognostication as to what men's reaction will be to being left behind and the societal consequence to us all.

Comment by Sylvia Dahlby on June 3, 2011 at 9:29pm

I think this is great news - but we still have a long way to go, baby. Last time I checked in 2010, women earned about $.80 on the dollar compared to men in comparable positions - some attribute this to less agressive negotiating skills. And in 2011, female graduates still face pay discrimination http://www.dailyemerald.com/2011/05/26/female-graduates-face-pay-di...

And while the internet certainly has leveled the playing field on a lot of fronts, a quick look in the board rooms of major US corporations still shows a decisive lack of female or minority faces. And in Saudi Arabia women are still not allowed to drive.

Comment by Sylvia Dahlby on June 3, 2011 at 9:43pm
PS Bill, personally I am unconcerned about the death of "traditional" gender roles in the workplace and the impact  or "turmoil" of employment equity on society.  I find the whole idea of "women's domains" insulting. I could ask why would a guy want to marry a woman "who'll be an economic ball and chain." Seriously? With tongue firmly in cheek: If "obsolete" men feel alienated, maybe they should support their working wives by becoming homemakers and doing a better job of raising their children... or they could fill the vacancies left behind by teachers, flight attendants and nurses.
Comment by bill josephson on June 3, 2011 at 10:10pm

Women make up more than 50% of the workforce.  They get paid similarly to men till they have children and opt to leave the workforce for a period of time or work part time or take less money to work in a family geographic friendly closer proximity to home/kids.  They're on their way to the board room as they've been marching up the corporate ranks for several decades now.  The women I've placed over the years in I/T and Engineering (fewer women in Engineering) get paid comparably.  The only assignments I've ever received in my 30 years of recruiting expressing a preference was for non White males.


I'm not surprised you or others aren't concerned about the death of "traditional" gender roles, Sylvia.  Being a woman it probably isn't your concern.  However, what you suggest sounds rational, but flies against biology thus there'll be intended and unintended consequences with gender "re-engineering," IMO.


Just my unrequited five cents   


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