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Six Facts about Women in the Workforce

We are now three to four decades into studying the differences between women and men. Much has been learned, but little has changed about the way the “male system” dominates the business world. Gender is the most powerful determinant of how a person views the world and everything in it, more powerful than age, income, race, or geography.

What else has changed over the last three to four decades as well are all the dynamic facts around gender roles, woman empowerment, college graduation rates, work force participation, consumer spending, etc.

Here are six true statements about the current status of women in the workforce:

FACT 1: Women are now the majority of the workforce in the USA. 
This occurred in the first half of 2010 for the first time in American history, and now women make up fifty-one percent of the professional workers in the USA. seventy percent of American women with children under eighteen are earning a paycheck while raising their children. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women now hold 51.4 percent of managerial and professional jobs—up from 26.1 percent in 1980. Women are fifty-four percent of all accountants and hold about half of all banking and insurance jobs. Women are about one-third of the physicians and forty-five percent of the associates in law firms—and both percentages are rising fast. And, in the EU, women have filled six million of the eight million new jobs since 2000. Read more: 9 Tips For Full-Time Moms Re-Entering The Workforce

FACT 2: Women now earn almost sixty percent of university degrees in the USA and Europe.
Women’s education is changing to more marketable subjects. In 1966, forty percent received a BA specializing in education and two percent in business and management. Now it’s twelve percent education and fifty percent business and management. Women earn only twenty percent of the degrees in engineering and computer science. In the USA, women earn fifty-seven percent of the bachelor’s degrees and fifty-nine percent of the master’s degrees. Women are fifty-one percent of those enrolled in medical school and nearly half of those in law school. Read more: The Three Rs of Business Success


FACT 3: In the USA, women make or influence eighty percent of consumer spending decisions.
Women purchases extend way beyond food, health, and beauty. Yes, women do purchase sixty-five percent of apparel. But they also purchase fifty-two pecent of all new vehicles, including trucks, and influence eighty percent of those purchases. They purchase forty-five percent of consumer electronics and influence sixty-one percent. And women purchase eighty percent of family health care decisions, seventy percent of travel decisions, fifty-five percent of wine, and twenty percent of homes (and influence ninety-one percent). Ninety percent of women participate in decisions that affect their household’s retirement and investment accounts. Read more:Talking About Money

FACT 4: Only three percent of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women.
Unfortunately, even though women’s influence has grown in other areas of business and management, the percentage and number of Fortune 500 CEOs has never risen much above three percent. We know many of the names—Meg Whitman at eBay, Carly Fiorina at H-P, Anne Mulcahy and Ursula Burns at Xerox, Indra Nooyi at PepsiCo, etc. Female CEOs may be rare in America’s largest companies, but they are highly prized. Last year, they out earned their male counterparts by forty-three percent on average. Read more: Tips to Get More Women in the Boardroom: Video featuring Sarah Palisi Chapin, CEO and former Pepsico Executive

FACT 5: Women are increasingly opting to become entrepreneurs rather than languish in stalled careers.
Organizations need to focus on retaining the female half of the workforce to keep the talent pipeline full at all levels and avoid the enormous costs of retraining and recruiting new replacement talent. Over seventy-five percent of workers say their company has implemented gender-parity initiatives, such as flex-work programs and mentorship, but many feel these programs are not effective. Only forty-eight percent of the men polled feel achieving gender-parity should be a critical business imperative while eighty-four percent of the women do. However, in the past decade the number of privately owned companies started by women in the USA has increased twice as fast as the number owned by men. Women-owned companies employ more people than the largest 500 companies combined. The U.S. Census Bureau surveys show a twenty percent increase in women-owned businesses in 2007 over 2002, now accounting for 7.8 million non-farm U.S. businesses. California, Texas, and New York are the top three states. And in China, women own more than forty percent of private businesses. Read more: Lessons from Enterprising Women

FACT 6: Women make thirteen percent to twenty-three percent less than men.
While this is very hard to measure as there are many variables from industry, occupation, profession, hours worked, etc., the pay gap has changed very little since 2001. Some of this gap is due to motherhood. Childless women in corporate America earn almost as much as men. Mothers with partners earn less and single mothers earn much less. Female programmers make ninety-three percent as much as their male counterparts. Female physicians only make sixty-one percent as much as the male physicians. Read more: Bridge over the River Pay-Gap



1.      “The End of Men” by Hanna Rosin, printed in the Atlantic 7/10

2.      “The Current Situation” from The Economist 12/09

3.      “Why She Buys” by Bridgett Brennan

4.      “Bearded Ladies” by Tara Patel in Bloomberg

5.      “Gender Parity Initiatives Are Just Not Working” by Bain & Company, Davos, 1/10

6.      “Not All Differences in Earnings Are Created Equal” by Carl Bialik, printed in The Wall Street Journal 4/10/10

7.      “New Census Data Reinforces the Economic Power of Women-Owned Businesses in the U.S. Says NAWBO” press release by NAWBO, 7/22/10

This article was written for w2wlink by Marsha Clark. For more information and to check out more of Marsha Clark, visit and be ready for our online webinar on Oct. 11. You don’t want to miss it.