Five Facts on Women in the Workforce

Childcare is a key item of discussion in Washington lately, and many policymakers are wondering how the availability of it may be impacting women’s workforce participation.

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Here are five facts on women in the workforce in America:

  1. In 2019, the U.S. ranked 71st in the world in women’s workforce participation.

That year, 57% of U.S. women participated in the workforce, the lowest in three decades. Women’s participation levels were higher in countries including Cambodia, Haiti, Kazakhstan, Peru, and Zimbabwe. Worldwide, 46.9% of women participated in the labor force in 2020, down from 51% in 1990.

  1. Nearly 70% of women ages 25-34 in America are currently employed.

Even amidst concerns about the availability of childcare, employment among 25-34 year old women has risen 5.5% in the last 12 months, compared with a 4% increase for the general population. Nationwide, 69.4% of women ages 25-34 are employed, compared to 51.5% of all women age 16 and up. Among men, the shares are 79.9% and 62.4% respectively.

  1. Forty-six percent of all working women are in low-wage professions, compared to 37% of men.

According to the Brookings Institution, women earned a median of $10.93 per hour in 2018. More than half of Black women (54%) and nearly two-thirds of Latinas (64%) are in such low-wage fields.

  1. At the start of this year, 6.4% fewer mothers were working than at the beginning of 2020.

The number among fathers was 5.9%. However, the gap was much wider at the beginning of the pandemic, when the share of mothers working was down 21.1 percentage points from one year earlier, compared to 14.7 percentage points among fathers.

  1. Between 1970 and 2019, the number of women in the labor force with college degrees quadrupled.

In 1970, 11% of women in the workplace held a bachelor’s degree or higher. In 2019, the number reached 45%. During that same period, the number among men doubled.


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