Dealing with Difficult Employees in the Workplace
Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling

Womens' Issues in the Workplace

Women in the Workforce

I have previously blogged about what to do if you are sexually harassed. With this blog I discuss and advise on a variety of additional issues facing women in the workplace. Women face unique issues because of their gender. Issues include women in the workforce, the glass ceiling, pay equity and work-family issues. I will start with women in the workforce.

Here are some statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor.

  1. Of the 122 million women age 16 years and over in the U.S., 72 million, or 59.2 percent, were labor force participants—working or looking for work.
  2. Women now comprise more than 50 percent of the total U.S. labor force.
  3. About 70 million women are employed in the U.S.—72 percent of employed women work on full-time jobs, while 28 percent work on a part-time basis.
  4. The largest percentage of employed women (41 percent) work in management, professional, and related occupations; 32 percent worked in sales and office occupations; 22 percent in service occupations; 4 percent in production, transportation, and material moving occupations; and 1 percent in natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations.
  5. Of the most prevalent occupations for employed women, the numbers are:  
    1. Secretaries and administrative assistants, 3,074,000
    2. Registered nurses, 2,612,000
    3. Elementary and middle school teachers, 2,343,000
    4. Cashiers, 2,273,000
    5. Nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides, 1,770,000
    6. Retail salespersons, 1,650,000
    7. First-line supervisors/managers of retail sales workers, 1,459,000
    8. Waiters and waitresses, 1,434,000
    9. Maids and housekeeping cleaners, 1,282,000
    10. Customer service representatives, 1,263,000
    11. Child care workers, 1,228,000
    12. Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks, 1,205,000
    13. Receptionists and information clerks, 1,168,000
    14. First-line supervisors/managers of office and administrative support workers, 1,163,000
    15. Managers, all other, 1,106,000
    16. Accountants and auditors, 1,084,000
    17. Teacher assistants, 921,000
    18. Cooks, 831,000
    19. Office clerks, general 821,000
  6. The 19 occupations with the highest median weekly earnings among women who were full-time wage and salary workers in 2009 were--
    1. Pharmacists, $1,475
    2. Lawyers, $1,449
    3. Computer and information systems managers, $1,411
    4. Computer software Chief executives, $1,553
    5. Engineers, $1,311
    6. Physicians and surgeons, $1,228
    7. Computer programmers, $1,182
    8. Management analysts, $1,177
    9. Computer scientists and systems analysts, $1,167
    10. Occupational therapists, $1,155
    11. Speech-language pathologists, $1,148
    12. General and operations managers, $1,110
    13. Education administrators, $1,093
    14. Psychologists, $1,091
    15. Personal financial advisors, $1,088
    16. Human resources managers, $1,072
    17. Marketing sales managers, $1,052
    18. Managers, all other, $1,037
    19. Registered nurses, $1,035
  7. Of persons aged 25 years and older, 31 percent of women and 30 percent of men had attained a bachelor’s degree or higher; 30 percent of women and men had completed only high school.

I believe the number of women will continue to increase in the workforce. Women will continue to have primary responsibility for home and family matters, thus creating a factor influencing work attendance. Employers will be challenged to provide family-friendly solutions for working people who need flexibility for child care and elder care. These solutions may include:

  • job sharing,
  • part-time employment,
  • staff working from home or telecommuting,
  • flexible starting and stop times and flexible core business hours, and
  • periodic paid and unpaid work interruptions for child care and elder care.

Attendance systems that are flexible will incentivize women to seek out such employment opportunities. Employers need to pay more attention to the Equal Employment Opportunity guidelines. They exist to create equity and too many employers are still working them as a numbers game because of reporting requirements. As recommended by the Women Employed Institute, women should be well informed about careers that offer higher pay opportunities. Most women's jobs are clustered in occupations that create gender equity issues, the topic of the third in the series of blogs.

EEO laws prevent specific types of job discrimination in certain workplaces. The Department of Labor has two agencies which deal with EEO monitoring and enforcement:

Traditionally, career fields that are the purview of women became marginalized in terms of pay, prospects, and status. Careers that were once male dominated are now overwhelmingly populated by women: clerical positions, administrative jobs, nursing, teaching, social work, and retail positions. The medical field is likely to follow the same path. Additionally, while we are making progress as a society, the statistics seem to show the percentage of women moving into education for high technology and hard science careers is stagnant or declining.

Remember, you can send me a question about your concern and I will respond to an anonymous sender and provide advice on dealing with your specific situation or issue about which you want more information.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on July 27, 2011