5 Data-Backed Truths About Women in the Workplace

Yellow background with yellow accent circles. Circle crop of two women working. Title: 5 Data-Backed Truths About Women in the Workplace

Working women have come a long way in the past century and now represent nearly half of the U.S. workforce. Women have climbed corporate ladders, held positions of political power, and achieved scientific breakthroughs all while overcoming ever-persistent cultural challenges.

Yet, despite these accomplishments, women still have a ways to go before true equity is realized in the workforce. Let’s explore the state of women in the workplace to understand the biggest hurdles women face and the biggest opportunities that exist for advancement.

1. Working Women are Still Recovering from the Impact of COVID-19 (and The Great Recession)

Women’s participation in the workforce steadily rose from the 1940s until its peak in 1999, when 60 percent of women, aged 16 or older, were either employed or actively looking for work. This rate remained above 59 percent until 2010, when it started dropping quickly until 2015, hitting 56.7 percent.

Women’s labor force participation started to climb again, reaching 57.4 percent in 2019. But then COVID-19 hit, and women’s participation in the workforce dropped to 56.1 percent, a rate not seen since 1987.

In 2022, this rate jumped back to 56.8 percent, essentially matching the rate from 2015.

A leading reason why the pandemic disproportionately affected women’s employment is because of occupational segregation—the perceived clustering of women in care-based or people-facing roles. Pre-pandemic, nearly two-thirds of women worked across three occupationally segregated sectors that were hit hardest by pandemic closures—education and health, retail, and hospitality.

Even as those sectors have improved, women’s participation in them is still down. For example, in the retail sector, women’s employment is down 156,400 jobs (about 2 percent) since February 2020.

However, specific roles within these sectors have projected job growth over the next decade.

2. The Outlook for Jobs in Female-Dominated Professions is Good

According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), occupations with the highest share of women are:

  • Preschool and Kindergarten Teachers (96.8%)
  • Speech Language Pathologists (96.1%)
  • Dental Hygienist (95.1%)
  • Licensed Practical and Vocational Nurses (91.3%)
  • Vet Techs (89.8%)
  • Nutritionists and Dieticians (89.6%)
  • Medical Records Specialists (88.8%)
  • Nurse Practitioners (87.4%)
  • Social Workers (86.8%)
  • Occupational Therapists (84.9%)
  • Paralegals and Legal Assistants (84.8%)
  • Interior Designers (83.8%)

Of those 15 female-dominated occupations, all were projected to grow through 2031.

All these roles require a certain level of education, with the four highest-paying jobs requiring a master’s degree.

3. Education Can Impact Women’s Workplace Pandemic Recovery

In recent decades, women have prioritized higher education. As a result, women across all racial/ethnic groups earn more than half of all bachelor’s (57.7%), master’s (61.4%), and doctorate (55.2%) degrees.

Women with bachelor’s degrees or higher have experienced a nearly 100% job recovery following the pandemic. However, women without college degrees are still recuperating from the pandemic, experiencing a 6%-12% decrease in labor force participation between 2019-2021 (depending on the level of high school completed).

4. The Gender Wage Gap Still Exists

If you’re a data nerd at all, then you understand that the gender wage gap isn’t as simple as “women working full time, year-round are paid 83.7% of what men are paid.”

The gender wage gap is affected by race, educational attainment, age, and occupation.

While part of the gender wage gap can be explained by people’s choices, that doesn’t explain the full differences in earnings. For example, even when segmenting data on parenthood, part-time and full-time employment, and levels of education, men outearn women.

Part of the overall wage gap stems from a lack of women in leadership positions.

5. Men Still Outnumber Women in Leadership Roles

Research has shown that having women in business leadership leads to better financial results overall. And yet, gender disparity persists in executive leadership.

Despite what McKinsey dubs “modest progress,” women continue to be underrepresented in corporate America and senior leadership. In fact, only one in four C-suite leaders (executives or chief officers) is a woman, and only one in twenty C-suite leaders is a woman of color.

Common C-suite titles include:

  • Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
  • Chief Operations Officer (COO)
  • Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)
  • Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO)

Research from Harvard indicates that men are still 2.5 times more likely than women to be in top leadership positions. In Harvard’s analysis of the top 100 companies in the Standard and Poor’s 500 (S&P 500), they found that:

  • Women account for 28 percent of all executives and nine percent of CEOs.
  • Women occupy 47 percent of CMO roles and 67 percent of CHRO roles. However, these are not typical “feeder” roles to CEO.
  • In traditional “feeder” roles, women account for 10% of COOs and 18% of CFOs.

One way to improve women’s representation among CEOs would be to rethink the required career path.

However, gender disparity in leadership starts much earlier than at the C-suite. Organizations also need to consider their pipeline when examining why more women aren’t in top leadership positions.

McKinsey found that, “For every 100 men who are promoted from entry-level roles to manager positions, only 87 women are promoted, and only 82 women of color are promoted.”

Learn More About Women in the Workplace

Insight Global has put together multiple resources about women in the workplace. Whether you’re trying to make the business case for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB), or you’re wanting to improve your own career, these articles will help.

If you’re ready to improve DEIB in your workplace, reach out to our DEIB team today. We offer multiple custom training and recruiting solutions for companies of all sizes.