Career Corner: A Monthly Executive Search Firm News Article Series.
Workforce Becomes Increasingly Female
April 1st, 2010
The workforce of the United States is beginning to subtly transform itself from being male dominated to a more even ratio between men and women. If the current growth in female workers continues at this pace, soon the workforce may be dominated by women. In 1970 women made up only 38 percent of employed individuals in the United States, while women currently make up 50 percent of the workforce. In fact, women are not only becoming increasingly active in the workforce, but they are also beginning to tak on more important leadership and executive roles within top tier companies. For example, Fortune 500 companies such as Radioshack, Sara Lee, and Reynolds American all have female CEO’s. As the number of working women begins to increase even further so will the number of high ranking women in the workforce. Let’s take a look at some of the changes that have been made from the past until the present and the positive effect that this has had on women in the working world.
Much of this change can be attributed to the work of strong female figures such as Betty Friedan and Margaret Thatcher, who pushed for equal rights for women both in and out of the workplace. Although this was a huge step in the right direction for women in the world of business, there were other factors that helped to contribute to women’s increasing numbers on the list of employed Americans. The increase in knowledge based jobs replacing the abundance of manual labor positions, that were available before World War II, was one of the driving forces. The current majority of available jobs no longer require the physical strength of the average man, and this has helped to benefit the presence of employed women tremendously. Other factors, such as the increase of women attending college and receiving business degrees, have also had a dramatic effect on the increase of the female presence in the workforce. The increase in methods of contraception over the past few decades has also given women the opportunity to postpone having children until they have reached a point in their careers where they feel that this can be managed. Not only has there been a large increase in the number of women in the workforce but also an improvement of the male perception of the women in the workplace.
A recent survey conducted by the Rockefeller Foundation and Time magazine found that 90 percent of men did not mind if women made more than them in the workplace. The survey also revealed that 75 percent of males were accepting of the new roles that women are picking up in the working world. Despite having the highest level of support, in history, for women in the business world, females are only running two percent of Fortune 500 companies and they make up only 13 percent of board members. This shows that there is still an ongoing process that will continue into the future before there is absolute equality in the workplace.
It is interesting to see the positive changes in the attitudes of men, in regards to the new role of women in the professional world. Coming from a time, about 50 years ago, when it appeared that equality would never be an option between men and women. Based on the statistics it is very obvious that the majority of men are accepting of the new role of women in the working world, but what effect has this had on women? According to a report published by the American Economic Journal, many women are not as happy as they once were. According to this study, titled “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness,” it appears as though the rate of female happiness is declining both in general and in regards to the happiness of men. As a result of all of these statistics we have several predictions to offer.
Although the happiness of women has been declining in recent years, we feel that this trend is about to change. A lot of the unhappiness of women in the business world can still be attributed to the lack of equality between men and women, both in regards to the wages that they receive and the way in which they are perceived and treated within a business environment. Many women still receive less on average than men that do the equivalent type of work. This gap widens for women who have children, and even further for single mothers. As the differences in wages are shortened and the perceptions of women in the working world continue to improve, so will the happiness of the corporate women of America. Just as perceptions of women to be independent and perform jobs that were once only supposed to be performed by men, have changed since the early 1900s, so they will continue to change and improve in the future.
Also, the number of women in the workforce is only going to continue to increase in the future, and in the very near future the number of women working will overtake the number of men in the corporate world. It will be important for companies to capitalize on this by hiring more women so that they can have a female perspective on the corporate world. This will become even more pivotal for companies that sell products and services that are used by both men and women. It will also provide companies with a more well rounded and diverse number of opinions that will only help to spark innovation and increase efficiency well into the future.