Saturday, February 28, 2009

Historic milestone predicted - more working women than men

Women may become more than 50 percent of US employment if the recession continues long and severe and this is something that historians will analyse considerably for many years.

In 1950 about one in three women participated in the US labor force. By 1998, nearly three of every five women of working age were in the US labor force. Among women age 16 and over, the US labor force participation rate was 33.9 percent in 1950, compared with 59.8 percent in 1998. As more women are added to the labor force, their share approaches that of men. In 2008, women made up about 48 percent of the US labor force and men 52 percent.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, and until this recession, women remained less than 49 percent of the US work force. However, that percentage has now passed 49 percent and may cross the 50 percent threshold for the first time. If the pundits are right that this recession will be long and severe, then women may gain the 0.9 percentage points from November 2008 that would push them past the 50 percent employment milestone and this is something that historians will certainly note for years to come.

Education is key to employment so it is interesting to note that the number of women graduating from Iran's universities is overtaking the number of men, promising a change in the job market and, with it, profound social change. Well over half of university students in Iran are now women. In the applied physics department of Azad University 70% of the graduates are women - a statistic which would make many universities in the West proud.

One profound social change ocurring is that young women who do have careers are now beginning to think twice about getting married. This is a very complex issue in certain cultures like under Iranian law where a woman still needs her husband's permission to go to work.

Working mothers are a relatively new phenomenon in Iran but attitudes are changing among the younger generation of working women, many of whom will no longer accept a husband who does not share the workload at home. Many believe Iranian women who have worked hard to overtake Iranian men will be the ones to bring about social and political change.

Many women say it is preferable for women to work while they are raising a family, however a significant majority think most women are conflicted about raising a family and working. Many women believe that it was due to the women’s movement and continuous campaigning for equal rights that massively helped improve the lives of working women.

But all is still not equal in the boardroom however there is good news for those organisations who maintain a diverse group of directors. Companies with the highest percentage of female corporate officers on average experience, a 35% higher return on equity and a 34% higher total return to shareholders than those with the lowest percentage of female corporate officers.

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