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The number of working women has surpassed men in the U.S.

Gone are the days where women are not allowed to join the workforce. Look where we are now? We have women, so many working women, contributing to the economy, that we have even outnumbered the number of working men for the first time since 2010, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Women encompass 50.04% of payroll jobs in the U.S. This signals that women are actually surviving better than men in today’s tight labor market. But what could have propelled this exciting milestone? A key driver of this change is the fact that “female-dominated industries soared, while male-dominated industries plummeted,” according to Julia Pollak, labor economist at jobs marketplace ZipRecruiter. “The economy created exactly 10 times as many jobs in the services sector than in the goods-producing sector in 2019,” she shared. “So, it was a very weak year for male-dominated manufacturing, oil and gas industries, and a very strong year for female-dominated industries such as health care and education.”

Economic Policy Institute reported that men make up 77% of employment in the construction and manufacturing sectors, whereas women make up 77% of employment in the education and healthcare sectors. On closer examination of the growth rate of these industries, construction and manufacturing were responsible for adding 356,000 jobs to the economy between 2018 and 2019. On the other hand, during the same time period, education and healthcare contributed 603,000 jobs to the economy. Economists at the Bureau of Labor Statistics attributed the fall in manufacturing jobs to economic factors such as the China trade war and the shift in demand for a particular skillset. This caused many men in these industries to be retrenched, as they were no longer deemed qualified for their jobs. “Between 2000 and 2017, as employment rates declined in the manufacturing sector, college-educated men saw their annual work hours reduced by 7.4%, compared with a 0.7% reduction for college-educated women,” the BLS revealed.

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More and more women are given the opportunity to be educated. Surprisingly, women have also outnumbered men at all levels of post-secondary education. Many male-dominated industries are slowly starting to witness an increase in the number of women entering the field. A paper by Bloomberg shows that women now make up 13.8% of mining and logging jobs, which is up from 12.6% a year ago. Various scholarships and schemes by governments and companies to encourage females to pursue their careers in normally male-dominated industries could be the reason. One example would be how Goldman has refused the IPOs if all directors are white, straight men. Although the effectiveness of such a rule remains to be seen, it brings attention to how white men still dominate Silicon Valley and the start-up industry. Many industries are realizing the benefits of having a diverse workforce and are creating flexible opportunities to allow women who left the workforce for motherhood to re-enter.

Julia Pollak also stated that “whenever you have these economic shifts, they also tend to cause cultural shifts too.” Besides the trend of more women entering the workforce, Pollak believes that the latest jobs report could also point to a shift towards more men being willing to stay at home.

Research from the Pew Research Center revealed that the number of stay-at-home dads between 1989 and 2016 had almost doubled from 4% to 7%. However, the number of stay-at-home moms remained virtually unchanged, with a slight fall from 28% in 1989 to 27% in 2016. Perceptions have most definitely changed, and now being a stay-at-home dad is cool! With the men holding the fort, it gives capable women the opportunity to pursue their career goals, without fear of “neglecting” their family.

Another plausible reason could be the efficient use of technology and the rise of remote working. Based on a study conducted by the World Economic Forum, a lifestyle of flexible work, including virtual teams, has become “one of the biggest drivers of transformation” in the workplace. It noted that,

“Telecommuting, co-working spaces, virtual teams, freelancing and online talent platforms are all on the rise, transcending the physical boundaries of the office or factory floor and redefining the boundary between one’s job and private life in the process. Modern forms of workers’ organization, such as digital freelancers’ unions, and updated labor market regulations are beginning to emerge to complement these new organizational models.”

Remote working used to be exclusively reserved for freelancers, but it has now become the future of employment with permanent roles having remote working options. This is especially seen within start-ups, which is heavily reliant on technology to accomplish the work. Everywhere we see co-working spaces sprouting up. Companies like Impact Hub, WeWork, Your Alley, Knotel, and District Cowork that provide co-working spaces are leveraging on this remote working job trend, which has taken the world by storm.

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