The Recession Effect: Gender Balance in the Workplace

Fri, 01/16/2009 - 10:41
Submitted by Carlin Ross

It's hard to know the WHY behind these numbers but it is an interesting discussion on gender, money, and power.  The terrible bottom line of last Friday's job report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics did not surprise many people - there were many fewer jobs in December 2008 than in the previous month.

Much less noticed, however, was Friday's breakdown by sex of employment declines before December. Is it possible that one legacy of this recession is that women become a majority of the work force for the first time in American history?

Years ago, women were a small percentage of the work force (outside the home). During much of the 20th century - especially the 1970s and 1980s - women's share of the labor force increased. By 1990, the work force was 47 percent female and 53 percent male, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many view this as one of the most important and desirable social and economic transformations of our lifetimes.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, and until this recession, women remained less than 49 percent of the work force. However, that percentage has now passed 49 percent and may cross the 50 percent threshold for the first time.

In November 2008, the female work force shrank more in percentage terms than it ever has in any one month - and more than ever over any single year - since 1964, if not longer. Nevertheless, the drop in the number of women working so far in this recession is smaller than the decline for men - even when measured in percentage terms - as has been the case in previous recessions.

There have been three distinct recessions - 1990-91, 2001 and today. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the recessions began in July 1990, March 2001 and December 2007. The first two ended in March 1991 and November 2001. Two notes: First, nobody knows when this recession will end, and second, the most recent data for which the the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports employment by sex is November 2008.

During the first recession, male employment fell 2.0 percent, while female employment hardly fell at all (less than 0.05 percent). In the other two recessions, the percentage employment loss for men exceeded that for women by a factor of 3 to 5 (interestingly, although women still have a small minority of each recession's employment decline, the female share of the decline has increased from one recession to the next, indicating that jobs held by women have become more sensitive to changes in the business cycle).

As a result of the larger male jobs losses, women's share of the work force has increased 0.5 percentage points in each of the most recent recessions. For example, the 0.5 percentage point increase that occurred in the 8 months of the 1990-91 recession is more than occurred for the 10 years that followed, or in the 6 years that followed the 2001 recession.

If the pundits are right that this recession will be long and severe, then women may gain the 0.9 percentage points from November 2008 that would push them past the 50 percent milestone. Important milestones will remain to be achieved, but women's surpassing 50 percent of employment is something that historians will note for years to come. [Econmix]

Editor in Chief & Keeper of All Things Betty Dodson

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Very interesting article.

Sat, 01/17/2009 - 07:10
bilety lotnicze (not verified)

Very interesting article. Thanks

Good and maybe not.

Sat, 01/17/2009 - 15:21

While I am excited at the prospect that women are gaining as a percent of those in the paid labor force, I wonder if this is as good as it sounds. Occupations traditionally held by males have been more highly compensated in our society. If there is a decline in the number of men working is that an indication that higher paying jobs are disappearing? If women merely account for a higher percentage of those who participate in the paid labor force without also gaining in terms of compensation I'm a bit more reserved in my excitement about this.

I guess what I'm saying, in a round-about way, is that it is not enough for women to be employed as frequently as men, women also need to be paid just as much as men. We need to re-examine how we value work.

I stumbled on this post

Mon, 01/26/2009 - 09:41
Anonymous User (not verified)

I stumbled on this post from another blog and just had some thoughts. I agree with Enrico that I am not sure if this is something to get excited about or not. On the surface, I say its great - if women want to work, they can and its great that they are finding employment. Deeper down though, I really want to see breakdowns of the type of work they are getting. Look at it this way, would you applaud a restuarant where 90% of the workers are female if the breakdown is that all the men are the managers and the women are the "lower level" employees? Just because there are more of the lower level positions doesn't mean things are any better for the women. I would also want to see if the women who are taking jobs now really have any desire to be in the workplace. If this economy forcing mothers who would rather stay home into taking a job? If so, then I think we will see the numbers flip back around after the recession is over.

Pretty Even

Sun, 04/26/2009 - 11:56
Eric Wayne (not verified)

I still think that 49 percent is pretty darn even. It proves the old saying that women should stay home with the kids while the men work wrong. As I still see a lot of families where that is the case. My mom never worked when she was raising me while my dad was working full time.

Well, I dont think that

Tue, 05/26/2009 - 07:03
Mike Jump (not verified)

Well, I dont think that recession has such a huge effect on everybody.

It really shows what the

Mon, 07/13/2009 - 11:13
Mykhaelo (not verified)

It really shows what the future is in store for us. I still think it will be about 10-20 years before we seen a increase in women at higher white collar jobs though.

Great

Wed, 07/15/2009 - 14:27
Magazine Master (not verified)

This post is interesting thanks for posting. I think everybody should work evenly or men should be home more withkids.

This trend is happening in

Wed, 07/22/2009 - 00:17
tall women's (not verified)

This trend is happening in wealthy countries all over the world. As the US shifts from manufacturing jobs to service jobs women are taking over the workplace. Far more men have lost their jobs in this recession than have women.

In November 2008, the female

Tue, 08/04/2009 - 13:03
senuke price (not verified)

In November 2008, the female work force shrank more in percentage terms than it ever has in any one month - and more than ever over any single year - since 1964, if not longer. Nevertheless, the drop in the number of women working so far in this recession is smaller than the decline for men - even when measured in percentage terms - as has been the case in previous recessions. Isnt this interesting?

Yeah. Women are now becoming

Sun, 08/16/2009 - 06:45
registry cleaner (not verified)

Yeah. Women are now becoming a new breed to be reckoned with in the country these days. However, how about in developing nations, is the ration about the same?

Thanks a lot folks.

Mon, 08/17/2009 - 12:24
dirt bike (not verified)

Thanks a lot folks.

Women are becoming more

Fri, 08/21/2009 - 03:04
folding chair (not verified)

Women are becoming more aggressive and more skillful these days. Men should keep a watchful eye on them, I guess. The macho days are over.

Step in the right direction...

Mon, 08/24/2009 - 05:48
Greg (not verified)

I agree that this is a step in the right direction and an encouraging trend, but I also agree with some of the earlier commenters that the type of role these women are getting is also important. I fear the number of women in powerful positions may still be pretty low.

great news

Mon, 08/24/2009 - 16:48
ixus (not verified)

this is good news for all women :)

Ixus

Good news for women?

Wed, 08/26/2009 - 12:55
social bookmarking (not verified)

Good news for women? I don't think so. The recession is bad always.

I didnot think i can find a

Thu, 09/03/2009 - 15:42
Design Ideas (not verified)

I didnot think i can find a well writen post like that by searching randomly in google

That is a very intersting

Thu, 09/03/2009 - 15:44
Videos Tutorials (not verified)

That is a very intersting article
I like it

this is good news for all

Sun, 09/06/2009 - 10:46
sinhala songs (not verified)

this is good news for all women.Very interesting article. Thanks

greate

Fri, 09/18/2009 - 21:41
Anonymous User (not verified)

I love this news.Thanks for share.

Where do you get this

Tue, 10/13/2009 - 10:41
Pool Resurfacing (not verified)

Where do you get this information that more men are losing their jobs than women? Perhaps it is because a lot of the jobs being lost are not leading edge, in technology, environmental, etc... but along the lines of manufacturing and jobs that are slowly being replaced with advancements being made.

I'm not sure what the

Sat, 10/31/2009 - 04:43

I'm not sure what the significance of this data is supposed to be, if anything at all. Sorry, I just don't see how breaking down employment rates by gender is a good indication of anything in today's real world.

I agree with Mike, the

Mon, 11/30/2009 - 22:53
Vertical Jump (not verified)

I agree with Mike, the recession has not effected every American negatively.

Some people have profited

Mon, 11/30/2009 - 22:54
Vertical Jump (not verified)

Some people have profited from the recession.

Recession affect women

Mon, 12/14/2009 - 23:15
zygor guide (not verified)

As a result of the larger male jobs losses, women's share of the work force has increased 0.5 percentage points in each of the most recent recessions.

Its true really

Thu, 12/17/2009 - 04:24
Anonymous (not verified)

To be honest the recession is still a big deal and is STILL having a major impact on all of our lives -- although this is good news for women :)

A well authored article, hopefully our society moves towards a more gender fair and balanced workplace.

Balancing the roles

Wed, 12/23/2009 - 15:49
dotdrill (not verified)

I absolutely agree with this:

In November 2008, the female work force shrank more in percentage terms than it ever has in any one month - and more than ever over any single year - since 1964, if not longer. Nevertheless, the drop in the number of women working so far in this recession is smaller than the decline for men - even when measured in percentage terms - as has been the case in previous recessions. Isnt this interesting?

To balance the roles between men and women is very important! To say the least.

Balancing the roles

Wed, 12/23/2009 - 15:54
dotdrill (not verified)

Women are redefining their role in the workplace and are more likely to seek personal fulfilment than top flight career success, research from the University of Leicester suggests.

In the struggle for businesswomen to forge their way to the top, role models have always played a major part. For young women, however, these are likely to be showbiz celebrities such as Kylie Minogue and Madonna - not top businesswomen as highlighted in recent media reports.

Not sure what to think about it

Sun, 04/04/2010 - 10:09

I've always been for women in the work force. It sounds like the reason women have an increased market share is mainly because of job loss, not because women are taking men's jobs. I heard we just had a good job report on Friday. I just hope we see in increase in job creation and will probably not be focused on whether a man or woman is getting the job.

The flow of oil

Sat, 06/12/2010 - 13:06
Daniel (not verified)

The recesion will probably get worse now that we have oil spills reaching the states. That will put thousands of workers that rely on there fishing will be to an end for them, so sad.

Women's Rights Must Be Protected

Fri, 06/25/2010 - 16:07
Coach (not verified)

I stumbled on this post from another blog and just had some thoughts. I agree with Enrico that I am not sure if this is something to get excited about or not. On the surface, I say its great - if women want to work, they can and its great that they are finding employment. Look at it this way, would you applaud a restaurant where 90% of the workers are female if the breakdown is that all the men are the managers and the women are the "lower level" employees? Deeper down though, I really want to see breakdowns of the type of work they are getting. Just because there are more of the lower level positions doesn't mean things are any better for the women. If this economy forcing mothers who would rather stay home into taking a job? If so, then I think we will see the numbers flip back around after the recession is over. I would also want to see if the women who are taking jobs now really have any desire to be in the workplace.

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