A few years ago, journalist Hanna Rosin wrote a seminal book and cover story in Atlantic magazine about how women are faring better in the modern economy than men. The main reason: Women are disproportionately represented in service professions, which are less vulnerable to automation and offshoring than male-dominated industries like manufacturing and construction. Rosin had lots of data to back up her thesis, but the manifesto was a little short on graphics.
Yesterday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics came to the rescue, with an extensive analysis of employment trends for women that features this excellent chart of those two halves of the economy:
Over the years, employment in service-providing industries such as health care, hospitality and retail has steadily increased, helping to get us to a point where women actually compose about 50 percent of the workforce. The ratio stopped rising during the recovery, when manufacturing jobs started to rebound, financial services firms hired more men than women, and local governments laid off hundreds of thousands of predominantly female employees. But if the historical trend in the balance of goods to services continues, and women continue to take more of those jobs, the balance could start to shift further in the ladies' direction.
However, it's important to keep in mind — as President Obama is by pushing federal contractors to pay men and women equally — that the gender pay gap has stubbornly refused to disappear. Here's some earlier BLS work on what that looks like, broken down by age, with the average in the middle in pink. The inequality actually got worse through the recovery:
That likely won't go away until workplaces don't punish women as much as men for having children, which takes them out of the higher salary brackets mid-way through their careers. As has oft been repeated, that's not just a women's issue, it's a men's issue, too.