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Where are Women Working?

June 21, 2011 | NeW

By guest blogger Kathleen Scofield More women are in the workplace now as compared to 1970 (56% vs. 41%).  With the influx in women over the last 40 years, where are they working and what are they doing? A study conducted by McKinsey & Co. in preparation for Wall Street Journal’s conference on Women in the Economy found that labor participation depends on the geographic location and women’s advancement up the corporate ladder has not materially improved, despite the overall increase in working women.

Which states would you guess have the highest percentage of women working? Among the states at the top participation are South Dakota, Iowa, Vermont, and the District of Colombia. The states with the least percentage include California, Texas, West Virginia and Arkansas.  Various reasons exist for these geological variations – those states with higher participation tend one or more of the following: more female friendly industries, women with higher levels of education, and a higher average age for women past child bearing age.

Not only are there geographical gaps, sectors such as science/technology and financial services have less women on average, 30% and 42% respectively. However, the most striking finding from the study was the unusually small percentage of women in top corporate positions.  When looking at the Fortune 500 CEOs, only 3 percent are women.  Why is the drop-off from entry level to executives so significant and what barriers exist that prevent women from rising to the top of the corporate ladder? According to the study, four factors contribute to this disparity:

  1. Structural issues – lack of informal networks
  2. Lifestyle issues – aversion to 24/7 availability
  3. Imbedded institutional mindsets – thought that promoting women is too ‘risky’ or judging men and women differently (women on performance, men on potential)
  4. Imbedded individual mindsets – fewer women than men believe they are qualified for the next job

With more women graduating college now then men (women make up 58% of college graduates), do you think these statistics have the potential to change with the NeW generation of women?

Kathleen Scofield is a guest blogger for NeW.  She is a recent graduate of UVA, where she served as NeW president.  She now works as an analyst at a professional services firm in Washington, DC. Kathleen will be speaking as part of a panel at NeW’s Sixth Annual National Conference. Register today!

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