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Vanishing Women: Female Workforce Participation Still Lower Than Pre-Pandemic

More people are filling jobs, pushing unemployment down, and that’s welcome news—but the number of women in the workforce has shrunk since the start of the pandemic, according to a piece from CFO Magazine.

What’s happening: In February, “[f]or women 20 years and up, the labor force participation rate was 58% (56.6% for those 16 and older), up from 57.1% a year ago but still lagging behind its pre-pandemic 59.3%.”

  • While men have always been a larger part of the workforce, in the past six decades their participation has also been on the decline.

Why it’s happening: “Multiple factors are at play in the slow recovery for women. For example, according to the payroll data, many of February’s job gains were in sectors (construction, computer system design, transportation and warehousing) where women constitute less than 30% of the workforce.”

What’s puzzling: The number of people unable to work due to COVID-19 fell to 1.2 million in February from 1.8 million in January—so why aren’t there more women in jobs? 

The child care factor: “As the pandemic fades, the supply of [child care] services remains tight: the daycare service industry’s employment rate is still 12% below pre-pandemic norms, according to a Wells Fargo report. With hourly wages for child care workers averaging $12.25, the industry will have to raise pay to attract candidates—and probably pass that extra cost on to customers.”

What manufacturers can do to help: Consider ways you might offer permanent child care subsidies or services for your employees’ children. 

The NAM says: “While men have now recouped most of their labor force losses since before the pandemic, women still have over 1.8 million losses in the overall economy, reflecting the challenges of domestic and care responsibilities,” said Manufacturing Institute Vice President of Strategic Engagement and Inclusion AJ Jorgenson.

  • “As 47% of the overall labor force but under 30% of manufacturing workers, we have the opportunity to recruit more women into the sector. That’s why the MI is working with manufacturers to help them tap into our largest talent pool by supporting emerging leaders and young women and girls interested in STEM, growing recruitment and retention practices and amplifying female role models in our industry with our new 35×30 campaign.”
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