March is “Women’s History Month,” a time to celebrate and encourage the study of the vital role that women play in American society. In honor of this, the Pew Research Center released today (15th) a report on both gender gains and gaps in the U.S.
First, let us start with the good news. Women today make up 47% of the labor force in the United States. That is a significant increase from 30% in 1950. However, growth in participation rates has stagnated. According to the study, the rise in the share of mothers in the labor market has been a driving force behind increasing labor force participation among women.
Second, we have seen a narrowing of the gender pay gap. In 2016, the working woman earned an average of 83 cents for every dollar earned by a man. In 1980, the numbers were 64 cents to a dollar. However, we must not forget that the earnings of White and Asian women remain significantly higher than the earnings of Black and Hispanic women.
The study also points to educational gains attained by women. According to Pew, women are now more likely than men to have a four-year college degree. Educational success has contributed significantly to women’s progress in the workforce.
We should be celebrating these gains. Nevertheless, women are still behind in terms of leadership positions, both in government and in business. The report shows that women still are only 20% of Congress and 25% of state legislature members. Even bleaker is the fact that women just made up around 5% of Fortune 500 company CEOs in 2017 and 20% if Fortune 500 board members in 2016.
Gender equality is not exclusively a “women’s issue,” but an issue that affects everyone. A country which leaves half of its population at a disadvantage is sabotaging its growth by not exploring half of its potential. We have seen a lot of progress, but this study shows that there is still a very long way to go.