July 24, 2012

Changing Workplace Gender Definitions

Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported an interesting statistic about job growth: 80% of the 2.6 million new jobs created over the past ten years are filled by men.

As you may expect, this reflects the increase in male-dominated manufacturing jobs, but it also is the result of the loss of many government jobs, which are held most often by women.  But surprisingly, men are obtaining a greater share of the jobs that have been more commonly held by women, such as retail sales:

Three years ago, women made up a majority of the payrolls in the retail trade, just as they have throughout most of the last three decades for which data are available.  But since the sector hit bottom in December 2009, men have landed more than 440,000 retail jobs while women have lost 49,500 positions.
Men now account for 51% of the 14.75 million retail jobs in the country.

The number of men employed in financial services (such as real estate and banking), hospitality, and healthcare have also increased, although women still outnumber men in each of these sectors.  This may not be beneficial for men or women, as these positions typically pay less or provide fewer benefits.  Career advancement, as well, may be limited in some of these job types.

During the recession, unemployment hit men first – 2009 was the peak year for number of unemployed males in the country.  For women, the unemployment peak was a full year later.  Both women and men have looked for alternative careers and jobs in other sectors; many have returned to school or college to retrain in a different field.

But the difference in hiring between genders, if it continues, may set back the many gains women have made in the workplace over the past years:

"It's hard to know whether some employers place a priority on men going back to work," said Joan Entmacher of the National Women's Law Center. Of particular concern, she said: Opportunities for women in higher-paying fields such as manufacturing are shrinking.

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said men may have an edge because they tend to have a longer work history. But he also suspects some employers will "take a male applicant more seriously even though men and women are equally qualified."

Although gender discrimination is tough to prove, more men than women filed “unfair hiring based on gender” complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last year - the first time this has happened in over a decade.  It’s possible that this is due to more men applying for positions in what were previously women-dominated fields, or simply more men looking to be hired.

Whatever the case, gender definitions are changing throughout the workplace, as more women and men are taking positions simply to be employed.  And whether women can obtain more of the new jobs being created is unknown.

What helps?  Chrysalis does, by funding organizations that help women become successful and employed:

×          Dress for Success provides professional attire and career support to disadvantaged women seeking employment.
×          We Learn Independence for Tomorrow (WeLIFT) delivers support, resources, and employment assistance to unemployed and low-income residents of Warren County.

In addition to these 2012 grant partners, Chrysalis has funded many other organizations and programs that train women to open and sustain a business or to gain personal and career skills to prepare them for successful employment.