Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

We've Come a Long Way, Baby, or Have We?

Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

We've Come a Long Way, Baby, or Have We?

Article excerpt


A plethora of articles has been published addressing the significant changes in US society and workforce demographics. Massive changes have been documented by the U.S. Census Bureau, (2010), indicating the change in Caucasian population in 1950 of 89 percent, to the 74.5 percent in 2009. The Hispanic population has grown from 6 percent in 1990 to 15.1 percent in 2009. Although the total percentage of Asian Americans is only 4.4 percent, this demographic group is currently the fastest growing in the US (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010).

Additionally, the number of older workers is increasing significantly, graying US society and the labor force. People in their 50's, 60's or 70's are staying employed longer than at any time on record. Fifty-five percent of people ages 60 to 64 were in the labor market during the first 11 months of 2010, up from 47 percent for the same period in 2000 (Cauchon, 2010). This will significantly impact organizations, insurance costs, and social security and medicare benefits. Perhaps one of the greatest demographic shifts is the influx of women into the workforce. In 2009, 59.2% of all women over 16 were in the labor force, compared to 72% of all men. Women made up 46.7% of the labor force and 51.4% of managerial, professional, and related positions (Catalyst Management, 2010).

The purpose of this research is to explore how far the women in the US workforce have come including (1) a comparison of men and women's pay, work positions, and promotion possibilities, (2) a review of women entrepreneurs, and (3) an examination of obstacles facing women in the workplace.


During the early 1900's, women's participation in the workforce gradually increased but made up a small percentage of the total workforce--in 1900, the percentage of female workers was only 18.1 percent and had risen only to 20.4 percent by 1920 and 21.9 percent by 1930 (Kay, 2000).

World War II brought major change in the demographics of the US work force. Many women entered the job market, working on farms and in factories to take the place of men who had gone to war (Judy & D Amico, 1997). During this difficult time, women became the head of the home, held full-time jobs, and educated their children. Generally, women did not return home after World War II and made up 57 percent of the workforce in 1945 (Kay, 2000).

American women proved as adept factory workers during World War II (Judy & D'Amico, 1997). In 1964, women were 34.56 percent of the labor force. Women have made up more than 45 percent of the labor force on payrolls for the last 24 years. Women's growth in the labor force slowed in the 1990's. Since 1990, women's and men's employment growth has been about the same, but by March 2010, women were 46.86 percent of the labor force (English, Hartmann, & Hayes, 2010). The current recession, which began in December 2007, has increased women's share of paid employment because the heavier job losses were among men. This is expected to be temporary. As the economy recovers, men's employment will probably rebound more than women's (English, Hartmann, & Hayes, 2010).

Obtaining advanced education is a reliable prediction of work force participation, and women have taken advantage of this path for entering the work force in greater numbers and at higher entry levels, possessing greater possibilities for promotion and advancement. Women's education levels at the undergraduate and graduate levels have matched the educational level of men since the early 1980's and continued through the 1990's (Equal Pay, 1998). In 2005-2006 women earned 55 percent of bachelor's degrees, 60 percent of master's degrees, and 48.9 percent of doctorates. Women are projected to earn 62.9 percent of master's degrees and 55.5 percent of doctorate degrees by 2016-2017 (Catalyst Academia, 2010).

Traditionally, American society placed the man as head of the home and >breadwinner. …

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