According to the BLS’ new databook on women in the labor force, women have made significant progress in the areas of educational achievement and earnings over the last 40 years. Labor force participation is significantly higher among women today than it was in the 1970s, but it seems to have peaked at 60 percent in 1999. By 2011, only 58.1 percent of women were in the labor force, down .5 percentage point from 2010.
While there are a wide variety of reasons women may be exiting the workforce, the economic benefits to promote female employment are pretty clear. According to the recent paper from Booz & Company, Empowering the Third Billion: Women and the World of Work in 2012, “if female employment rates were to match male rates in the United States, overall GDP would increase by 5 percent.”
Employers can help to stop this decline by stepping up their efforts to recruit women – and that means understanding how women search for jobs and what they look for in potential employers.
Recent CareerBuilder research shows females are more willing to learn new skills outside of the scope of their current position (68% vs. 63% of men). Attracting more female workers could be as easy as highlighting your organization’s training and re-skilling programs. This finding also indicates an opportunity for employers to retain current employees by providing more training and development opportunities for their current workers.
Additional tips for attracting and retaining female workers include:
- Implement practices that reduce conflicts between work and family demands (i.e. promote flexible work schedules, provide access to daycare, promote a Results-Only Work Environment, etc.).
- Change the way jobs are structured/described and roles/behaviors enacted to make them gender neutral. Jobs should de-emphasize masculine and feminine stereotypical attributes. Application and hiring information should be gender neutral.
- Make it easier for women to work in male-dominated companies/industries by adapting working styles to allow women (and men) to accommodate family demands.