IWPR (and the rest of the world) has been tracking data from the online databases for the Current Employment Survey (CES) showing that women are currently 49.9 percent of workers on payrolls for August. These figures are seasonally adjusted and leave out self employed, household workers, agriculture, and the military. Folks are breathlessly awaiting data for the month when women might actually constitute 50 percent or more of the employed labor force.
This would be a significant milestone, even if this shift is due to men losing more jobs than women in this recession. Part of the reason for women’s commanding presence in the workforce is that women have been increasing their education and labor force participation for several decades, but barriers such as occupational segregation and the gender wage gap still persist.
Hopefully this milestone encourages policymakers to sit up and take note of the needs of the workforce. Policies affecting women such as equal pay, workplace flexibility, paid sick leave, subsidized child care, and so on are growing in importance and need to be strengthened. Policies in the United States are behind what many other countries are doing for families and for women in the labor market. It is critical at this point, given the trend in data seen here, for the United States to reassess our outdated policies to meet the realities of today’s workers. Strengthening family policy will strengthen the workplace, with benefits for families, communities, and society.
Elisabeth Crum, Communications Associate