The percentage of women in the U.S. workforce has dramatically increased over the past four decades. According to new data from Pew Research Center, women will constitute 47.1% of the workforce — an all-time high — in 2025. After that point, though, that percentage isn’t expected to continue climbing. In fact, researchers anticipate the trend will reverse, with women making up just 46.3% of workers by 2060.
More women in the workforce between 1950 and 2000 led to an improved standard of living in the U.S. Yet these new Pew projections suggest both men’s and women’s participation in the labor force will eventually decrease - which will likely lead to a decline in U.S. residents’ standard of living and the country’s overall growth and productivity.
What will cause women's decreased participation in the workforce? According to Pew, it’s not merely the result of aging and retirement. “Mothers with children younger than 18 are less likely to participate in the labor force now than they were in 2000, particularly less-educated mothers. Some researchers have suggested this may be due in part to changing gender role attitudes,” the study explains. “Women without children under 18 and single women are also less likely to participate than they were in the 1990s. The withdrawal of single women from the labor force in part reflects that more of them are going to school.”
Pew recognizes that “future labor force participation rates are not etched in stone. They are influenced by wider societal trends (such as marital stability and childbearing), wage growth, and policy changes such as tax policy and family leave policies.” But if these new projections are in fact on track, this will stymie economic growth.
These findings are disheartening, and they highlight the ongoing relevance of the work that Fairygodboss and other organizations are doing to improve women’s experiences in the workforce. Founded with a mission to increase transparency in the workplace, Fairygodboss aims to shed light on information that’s important for women access as they navigate their careers - such as which companies offer generous parental leave benefits and flexible hours, and which are likely (or not likely) to promote and pay women equally to men.
While there are a multitude of factors influencing every woman’s choice to join or not join the labor force, it’s critical that women are at the very least well-informed about their prospects.
Fairygodboss is committed to improving the workplace and lives of women.