Find your work people. Download our app.

Career Paths

Women In The Workforce Facts And Statistics

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated Jun 29, 2021

Guide Overview

Women's payWomen in leadership  Labor force participation

Guide Overview

Women in the workforce

The participation of women in the U.S. workforce has increased significantly across the second half of the last century, and has been fluctuating since 2000. Going into 2020, women held the majority of jobs for the first time in nearly a decade. They're working longer hours and going after higher education in higher numbers. However, there are still big gaps between men and women when it comes to the jobs they have, money they make, and general economic security. This article covers facts and statistics about women's pay, women in leadership, and women in the workplace overall. 

Women's pay

The U.S. passed the Equal Pay Act over half a century ago, but across the board, American women are still dealing with a significant gender wage gap. In 1979, while men 16 and older, working full-time were making $408 weekly, women made $251. Undeniably, there has been progress, but the Institute for Women’s Policy Research predicts that equal pay won’t be a reality until 2059. 

The gender wage gap

The gender wage gap refers to the difference in pay between women and men. There’s a variety of ways this gap is calculated and accounted for, and there are different wage gap classifications — controlled vs. uncontrolled — but the disparities are glaring. According to the most recent data presented by PayScale, women as a whole earn 82 cents for each male dollar earned. This calculation includes no variable factors, and represents women and men of all races, working full time and year-round. This 82 cents is a 1% improvement from 2020, and an 8% improvement from 2015

Uncontrolled wage gap

Not accounting for such variables as race and qualifications such as education and years of experience makes that 82 cents the uncontrolled gender wage gap. Resulting from the economic turbulence of 2020, women — especially those of color — have faced unemployment rates disproportionate to what’s typical. Because of the inordinate impacts of unemployment on women, as women of color, women working at lower job levels or making less money lose their jobs, the absence of those numbers will raise the earning average — closing the gap for reasons less than ideal. 

Controlled wage gap

If we’re looking at the controlled wage gap, the difference is less significant, but there’s still a gap. When men and women with the same qualifications and employment characteristics have similar jobs, women are earning 98 cents for every dollar earned by men. This means that a woman doing the exact same job as a man, with the same qualifications is still paid less for no imputable reason. 

The uncontrolled gap is equally significant to the controlled pay gap and highlights the incongruity of economic power between women and men in our society. It’s also a measure of the roadblocks women and people of color encounter when trying to obtain the same prestigious and powerful positions as white men. If the controlled pay gap was eliminated tomorrow — women and men with the same qualifications were paid the same — the uncontrolled gap would remain if the highest-paying jobs remained disproportionately attainable for men due to racial and gender bias.

Learn more: Progress on the Gender Pay Gap

Women in leadership  

Despite the fact that the majority of Americans regard women and men as equally competent when it comes to the qualities necessary for leadership roles, women still account for a small percentage of leadership positions. 

Women CEOs of the S&P 500

Strikingly few women are CEOs of the world’s largest corporations. Women currently hold 30 CEO positions at Standard and Poor’s (S&P) 500 companies, which comes out to 6%. According to the August 2020 Fortune Global list, 13 women (2.6%)  were CEOs of Fortune Global 500 companies, all of which were white. CEOs of the Fortune 500 are markedly straight, white, and male — women, those of color, those born outside the U.S., and LGBT women are severely underrepresented

Women in management

In 2019, the number of women in senior management roles, globally, increased to 29%. This is the highest number ever recorded, and remained the same in 2020. Also in 2020, 87% of percent of middle-market companies had at least one woman in a senior management spot. The proportion of women in senior leadership differs greatly by role. They’re invariably over-represented in support roles like administration, while men are represented in operations and research and development. For instance, in 2020, 40% of directors of human resources were women, while 16% of chief information officers, and 17% of chief marketing officers were women. 

The representation of women in senior management also differs by region. In Africa, the percentage is 38%, Eastern Europe is 35%, Latin America is 33%, North America is 29%, and Asia Pacific is 27%. India, South Korea, and Japan have the lowest representation of women in management. 

In Canada, men hold more than 90% of C-Level executive positions. Women made up just over a third of managers, and 31.5% of senior management in 2019. 

In Europe, one out of three managers is a woman. In the European Union, the proportion of women in management is 36.9%, Sweden is 43.1%, France is 37.3%, Germany is 30.4%, Spain is 37.7%, the Netherlands is 30.5%, Switzerland is 34.9%, and the United Kingdom is 37.6%. Across the largest listed corporations in the European Union in 2020, just 19.3% of executives, and 7.9% of CEOs were women. 

In the U.S., in spite of the record number of Fortune 500 Women in C-Level positions, for every company run by a woman, there are nearly 13 run by a man. Though they represented almost half (47%) of the total workforce in 2019, women accounted for just over a third (40%) of management. 

Women of color in leadership

In 2019, almost a third (32.3%) of management positions were held by white women. Women of color were drastically underrepresented — Latinas: 4.3%, Black women: 4%, and Asian women: 2.5%. Further, in 2019, women employees represented 21% of the C-Suite, while women of color represented 4%. In Senior Vice President roles, that ratio was 26% / 5%, Vice President: 30% / 7%, Senior Manager or Director: 34% / 9%, Manager: 38% / 12%, and Entry Level positions: 48% / 18%.

Labor force participation

Globally, in 2020, women represented 38.8% of all labor force participants. Of all women, less than half (46.9%) were part of the labor force — down from 51% in 1990. There are cultural restrictions that contribute to this gap like the amount of time women spend performing unpaid caregiving duties (childcare, housework, etc.). Mothers are less likely to be part of the workforce than women without children and fathers. 

Unpaid labor

The global average for time women spend each day on unpaid labor is 4 hours and 22 minutes, compared to men’s 2 hours. There are, in fact, zero countries in which men perform an amount of unpaid labor even equal to that of women. The U.S. is the only Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member that doesn’t mandate paid family leave  — maternity leave offers a median of 98 leave days, while paternity leave offers a median of only 5 days. This disproportionately pushes women with children out of the workforce, decreasing their participation rates. 

Paid leave is increasing in the U.S., but remains uncommon. Eight states and the District of Columbia have implemented paid family leave laws, all of which vary vastly across states. 

In the U.S., the majority of women between 15 and 50 years old are mothers. In 2019, of all women with children under 18, 72.3% were employed, compared to 93.4% of men with children under 18.

Learn more: 9 Great Companies for Working Mothers 

Male-dominated occupations

Male-dominated industries or occupations are those which are comprised of 25% or fewer women. Examples of male-dominated careers include: software developer, construction worker, financial analyst, architect, aerospace engineer, and firefighter, and there are many more. Women face plenty of challenges working in these environments, such as misconceptions regarding their leadership capabilities, ubiquitous stereotypes framing women as “den mother” or office “housekeeper” types, sexual harassment, and limited access to mentoring and development opportunities relative to men. 

Despite these disadvantages, according to research cited by Business News Daily, women have made noteworthy gains in fields notoriously dominated by men. Some examples of these fields and the percentage of women in each role are as follows:

  • Commercial and industrial designers: 48%
  • Veterinarians: 48%
  • Lawyers: 48%
  • Marketing managers: 47%
  • Management analysts: 43%
  • Optometrists: 43%
  • Sales managers: 43%
  • Chemists: 42% 

The gap between men and women in the workforce has tapered significantly, but progress has slowed in recent years. Despite this progress, women continue to be underrepresented in many industries, and in the labor force in general. While there’s noticeably less gender bias when it comes to women choosing career paths and hiring, there remains much room for improvement in terms of achieving balance. 


Related Career Guides