While the conversation about the gender gap in the workforce isn’t a new one, it’s certainly an important one. Strides have been made, but there’s still a long way to go in terms of things like equal pay, career advancement, and equal representation in leadership roles.
According to the 2018 Women in the Workplace Report released by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org, women make up only 38% of management roles. They’re also more likely to see their gender as an obstacle to future career advancement—29% of women stated that they believe their gender will be a barrier, compared to only 15% of men.
However, despite the fact that women are often focused on as the underdogs in these situations, Bloomberg reports on an area where women are actually leading the charge: jobs recovery.
Rebounding From the Recession
It’s been over a decade since the beginning of the Great Recession, during which the unemployment rate experienced a major (and let’s admit it—frightening) spike. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate rose from 5% to 10% in December of 2007.
The labor market overall has rebounded since that time. But it’s Millennial women who have experienced the greatest amount of jobs recovery. As the Bloomberg article points out, today Millennial women are participating in the job market at levels that haven’t been seen since 2000.
“The share of 25- to 34-year-old women who are employed or looking has staged a sharp turnaround since 2016,” writes Jeanna Smialek in the article. “The group since December 2015 has accounted for 86 percent of growth in the workforce of prime-working-age women, who are 25- to 54-years-old, and for 46 percent of gains in the prime-age labor pool as a whole.”
The share of 25- to 34-year-old women who are employed or looking has staged a sharp turnaround since 2016.
In contrast, while men still do participate in the workforce at a higher rate than women, their participation rate still hasn’t rebounded to pre-recession levels.
What’s Driving This Uptick?
There’s not one clear reason for why female participation in the labor market is experiencing a steady up and up. Instead, the article points to several possible causes.
For starters, Millennial women are now more likely to have a college degree than their male counterparts. A 2016 study from Pew Research found that, among 25- to 29-year-olds, women were 7% more likely than comparable men to possess a bachelor’s degree. Statistics also show that employment rates increase right along with education, which could be a probable contributor to their increased participation in the workforce.
There are some societal factors at play as well. Women in this generation have been delaying marriage and kids, instead opting to prioritize their careers. The median age at which women marry rose to 27.4 in 2017, compared to the median age of 20.8 in 1970.
Single-mother households have also increased, which means many of these women have to work to support their families. Even in two-partner households, supplementing the household income is a big draw—particularly as the cost of living only gets higher.
“And it almost certainly helps that industries doing the most hiring—led by education and health services—include many job titles dominated by women,” adds Smialek in the Bloomberg article.
This is something you already know: Women are an undeniably important part of the labor market. But, as this Bloomberg article proves, they’re even more than that—they’re a force that’s quite literally driving the growth of the current workforce.
What does this mean for you? It's important to ensure that your company is activating and enabling their growth and success.
Many of our partners here at The Muse (like BMW and Zynga as just two of many examples) not only foster those diverse, supportive, and growth-driven environments, but actively promote them in their employer branding materials to attract talent that aligns with those values.
Of course, diversity extends beyond just gender. If you’re looking for strategies to build a more diverse and inclusive work environment all around, our latest ebook shares plenty of insights into how top companies succeed with their own diversity and inclusion efforts.