Thursday, April 30, 2009

Women in the Labor Force

University of Chicago economist Casey B. Mulligan started a bit of a buzz when he observed in the New York Times Economix blog that women had risen to over 49% of the labor force (49.1%) in November, 2008. Mulligan went on to suggest that women might become the majority in the workforce should job losses in male-dominated industries continue into 2009.

While the story may have made for interesting headlines (As Layoffs Surge, Women May Pass Men in the Labor Force) and water-cooler conversations, it left a great deal of the story about the impact of the current economic climate on women untold, and certainly led some to believe that women were riding through the recession with limited pain. Such is not the case, as the following elaborate.
  • The National Women's Law Center has reported that since September 2008, when the recession began to impact industry sectors that employ primarily women, the rate of unemployment among women has actually been rising faster than the rate of men. NWLC also noted that unemployment among women who head households is 10.3% (Feb. 2009 figures), up over 50% in the past year.
  • The overall numbers mask job losses for women in industries where they are employed in white-collar, professional positions. In her article, Terminated: Why the Women of Wall Street are Disappearing, author Anita Raghavan reported that companies in the financial services and insurance industries have cut 260,000 jobs during the current recession, and that "seventy-two percent of the missing workers laid off have been women, even though they constituted 64% of employment before the crash began."
  • The New York Times previously reported in July 2008 that women were now "equal as victims" in deteriorating economic conditions. The article noted that: "after moving into virtually every occupation, women are being afflicted on a large scale by the same troubles as men: downturns, layoffs, outsourcing, stagnant wages or the discouraging prospect of an outright pay cut" - so much so for the first time since the women's movement took hold, the percentage of women working has fallen. Originally written off as a result of women "opting-out," economists now believe it is a response to the current economic climate.
The website Fem2.0 recently sponsored a "blog carnival" on the subject of women and work - contributors include Joan Williams (Unbending Gender), best-selling author Gloria Feldt and Ohio's own Jill Miller Zimon (Writes Like She Talks blog). There's a great array of viewpoints represented; it's worth taking a look.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

U.S. - Not Really A Leader in Promoting Women Execs

Sylvia Hewlett recently wrote at about European companies who are placing an emphasis on attracting and retaining talented women as a key priority in the current economic environment.

It isn't the gist of the article that caught my attention however, but this sentence that starts the second paragraph: "There's no doubt that American organizations continue to value female talent — and remain in the lead when it comes to promoting women into senior roles."

The problem? The U.S. does not lead the world in promoting women into senior roles. That distinction goes to the Philippines according to the most recent survey by Grant-Thorton. The information comes from their 2009 International Business Report, which is an annual survey of the views of senior executives in privately held businesses all over the world. The top three countries according to the survey were:
  • Philippines - 47% of senior management positions are held by women,
  • Russia - 42%
  • Thailand - 38%
Where's the U.S? It ranked 28th among the 36 countries included in the report, with women holding an estimated 20% of senior management positions in the private sector.
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