An Effort to Increase Women in the Workforce

By Brendan O'Brien | October 27, 2022

In the last century, and in particular the last few decades, the United States has made a large effort to increase gender equality between men and women. These efforts have been seen in all walks of life. One major point of focus in this regard has been increasing the percentage of American women participating in the workforce. Transitioning from a culture where women are expected to stay at home and be housewives to one where they are capable of doing anything in the business world has been a large challenge. There have been many initiatives made to try and encourage this transition, with some being more successful than others. One of the most popular has been incentivizing women to attend colleges and universities. As more and more women have been accepted to and have attended college, there has been a subsequent increase in their participation in the workforce. However it has not been a one to one correlation, and even recently there has been more of an inverse relationship. Because of this, many economists are forced to reevaluate how to further increase the labor force participation rate of women in the United States.

For the first time in United States history, 2014 saw more women with college degrees than men. For over 25 years, more women have been graduating from college than men, however, it is only recently that the two sides have caught up. Despite this, women still far trail men in terms of the workforce participation rate. According to the FRED economic database, 56.8% of women are in the labor force, compared to a number of 67.9% of men. This is still a large gap, which still is largely present despite the fact that more women now possess college degrees. This is perhaps most surprising because this number is below what it was at the turn of the century. In 2000, the labor force participation rate for women was over 60%. Despite a major increase in the education level for the average woman, they are still participating in the workforce at a rate lower than what it was 20 years ago.

This difference is made up of Americans without college degrees. While a similar percentage of men and women with college degrees are employed, the same can be said for those individuals with only a high school diploma. Of men in this demographic, 64% are in the workforce, compared to only 43% for women. This difference has raised many concerns for economists and highlights many of the cultural and societal norms in our country surrounding women and their place in the workforce. While incentivising college for women has helped a certain demographic, it has still left many women behind. To combat this, some companies have instituted increased maternity leave benefits, as well as allowing for a more flexible working environment. However despite this, these numbers stay largely unchanged. It remains a large challenge for economists and all Americans to try and fix.

Edited by Zikuan (Daniel) Zhu