The Prospects for Success for Women in the Workforce in 2010
A small statistic made big workplace news in 2009: For the first time in US history, women edged out men to become the majority of the workforce. Crossing the 50 percent threshold is partly due to the current recession's patterns, but it gives working women a fresh starting point from which to map out a strategy for growing and succeeding in their jobs in 2010.
Womens Edge in the Recession Workplace
Working women overall fared better than men this recession. In 2009, the jobless rate for women approached nearly 8 percent, while men suffered 10.5 percent unemployment. Due to the falloff in male-dominated industries like construction and manufacturing, men held a whopping three quarters of the 7 million jobs shed since 2007.
The jobless rate among women with a high-school diploma rose to 8.6 percent (versus 11.1 percent of men), while their college-educated coworkers held steady at 4.9 percent (versus 5 percent of men). Traditional careers for women -- so-called "pink-collar" jobs, like teaching, nursing and social work -- flourished compared to other occupations in 2009.
Careers for Women That Are Here to Stay
As a practical matter, does the fact that they now represent the majority of the workforce make a genuine difference to women? I think it makes an enormous difference on many levels, says Kathy Caprino of Ellia Communications, a career coaching firm in Wilton, Connecticut, that focuses on women. We believe what we see, so when we see more women in the workforce, it opens the pathway for those who maybe didnt think they had it in them. Its not a flash in the pan. Its a trend that will continue.
When the economy rebounds, look for working women to maintain the ground theyve gained. Sure, womens World War IIera workforce gains receded once the war ended. But Brad Harrington, executive director of Boston Colleges Center for Work and Family, sees too many different social forces at play in 2010, including the ascendancy of dual-income families as the norm.
I dont think anyone believes an influx of men will step into the workforce and women step out, says Harrington. This shift has been underway for too long.
More important than womens sheer numbers in the workforce are the levels of education theyre attaining. Harrington points out that in the US, women now earn 57 percent of bachelors degrees and 58 percent of masters degrees. Were now at the point where women are performing better in numbers and in quality than men are, he says. When companies go to colleges to recruit, if theyre trying to recruit the best people, the top candidates are going to be women.
How Working Women Can Grow and Succeed in the 2010
Women in the workforce can indeed capitalize on opportunities to advance their careers. The next step is taking that success and truly making inroads into senior ranks in organizations, says Cali Williams Yost of Work+Life Fit Inc. in Madison, New Jersey.
Try these suggestions for how women can reshape their opportunities as the job market improves: