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March 1 2018

7 Facts About Women in the Workforce for Women's History Month

by Patrice Lee Onwuka

National Women's History Month kicks off today, March 1.

Women in America have fought for generations to secure equality and rights at home, in the workforce, and in society. As a result, we have achieved tremendous gains in every sector and at every level.

In March 1987, President Ronald Reagan recognized the tremendous impact women have made on the history of our nation with Presidential Proclamation 5619 proclaiming March "Women’s History Month." He called on all Americans to honor the achievements of women noting: 

"From earliest times, women have helped shape our Nation. Historians today stress all that women have meant to our national life, but the rest of us too should remember, with pride and gratitude, the achievements of women throughout American history.

"Those achievements span the wide range of human endeavor. They have not been attained without the quiet courage and sacrifice of millions of women, some famed, most not. Women have fought for moral and social reform and have taken part in and led many great social and political movements of our land. Women have founded many of our philanthropic, cultural, educational, and charitable institutions. Women have served our Nation with valor and distinction during wartime, nursing the wounded, piloting airplanes, performing vital jobs in defense plants. Women have forged a place for themselves in public life, serving on the Supreme Court, in the Congress, and in Cabinet posts; becoming Ambassadors; and holding Federal Executive posts that affect the lives of every citizen.

"Most importantly, as women take part in the world of work, they also continue to embrace and nurture the family as they have always done. All Americans can be truly grateful for the role of women as the heart of the family and for their every accomplishment today and throughout our history."

We honor the sacrifices and achievements of women who have carved out pathways and helped to create opportunity for women.

Here are 7 facts that show just how much women have changed the workforce

  1. While million of women joined the labor force, millions of men left it. From 1948 to 2016, the labor force participation rate for women climbed from 32.7 percent to 58.6 percent, but fell from 86.6 percent to 69.2 percent for men. 57 million more women are working today than 70 years ago.
  2. Women outnumber men in some of the biggest industries: education and health services (75 percent), financial activities (52 percent), other services (52 percent), and leisure and hospitality (51 percent).
  3. Women are substantially more educated today than 50 years ago. In 1970, 34 percent of women had less than a high school diploma (did not graduate from high school or earn a GED). In 2016, that percentage is down to just 6 percent. Almost four times as many women have a bachelor's degree in 2016 than in 1970.
  4. More women are working for themselves than the past. In 1976, 27 percent of those self-employed were women and that has increased to 39 percent in 2016.
  5. Women-owned businesses boost our national economy. There are over 9.4 million women-owned firms that generated $1.5 trillion in sales (in 2015) and employed nearly 7.9 million people 2015. 
  6. Far more moms with underage children are working than previous generation. The labor participation rate for mothers with children under 18 rose from 70.3 percent up from 47.4 percent in 1975. 
  7. Women are breadwinners for a sizeable number of American housheolds. In 2016, mothers are the sole breadwinners in 40 percent of households compared to just 11 percent in 1960.

Despite how far women have come, there is still more progress to be made. Common-sense solutions which empower women and increase opportunity will help us get there.

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Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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