Women held 50.04 percent of jobs in December, with 109,000 more women holding jobs than men, according to the data. Some professions that have historically been considered “women’s work” have seen growth, while the number of jobs in some male-dominated sectors declined. Last month, education and health services added 36,000 jobs while manufacturing and mining lost 21,000 jobs, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Institute for Women’s Policy Research President and CEO Dr. C. Nicole Mason told Supermajority News that the growth of jobs in female-dominated industries is admirable but “doesn’t tell us the full story of women and the economy and why [women are] making a larger share of the labor market.”
Mason pointed out that women are overrepresented in part-time employment and work multiple jobs. “It comes down to women not being able to make ends meet with the wages they’re paid in comparison to their male counterparts,” she said.
What’s more, pay inequality still persists, and workers in professions historically considered women’s work are paid less overall. “Women are more likely to be employed, and those sectors are more likely to pay less because they employ women,” she said, adding, “Sectors not dominated by women, those sectors tend to pay more.”
The last time women held more payroll jobs than men was between June 2009 and April 2010. June 2009 was the official end of the Great Recession, but Americans continued to feel the effects for years after. “That was the height of the recession,” Mason told Supermajority News. “We saw similarity in what sectors slowed. What’s different here is this is over a ten year period; Those jobs have not come back.”
Though measures of the economy are currently strong, Mason said it’s important to question the quality of jobs employing women. “What difference does the low unemployment rate make when women can’t take care of their families?” she asked. “The question we have to ask ourselves is what kind of jobs are those? Are they quality jobs? Even though there is growth in these sectors, are these quality jobs?”
If the jobs aren’t high quality and high paying, will women workers be able to benefit from markers of a strong economy like a booming stock market, Mason asked. “We’re missing the mark with the way we’re talking about women and the economy. More women are in the labor market, but if you focus on the top line, you miss what’s happening and why women are in the labor force and what their labor force participation looks like,” she told Supermajority News.