Women make up more than 50 percent of the U.S. population and more than 49 percent of the workforce, yet they still hold a disproportionately small number of leadership roles in both the public and private sector. At every level of government across America, women are underrepresented. The United States ranks nearly 70th out of 188 countries in terms of women elected to national offices, having dropped down from 57th in November 2004.
While there is room for more research on how women in leadership roles affect policy outcomes, the advancement of women in our workplaces has had clear benefits for our economy and nation. Studies have shown that Fortune 500 corporations with more women on their boards perform better financially and that hedge funds run by women also outperform the industry standard. But right now, of the 1,000 CEOs leading our nation’s largest businesses, only 42—4.2 percent—are women.
Furthermore, women are more likely to work in many of the low-wage, service-sector jobs that underpin much of our economy. Women make up 54 percent of all service-sector workers and 77 percent of all education and health-service workers. This includes 80 percent of those in health care and social-assistance jobs, and more than 80 percent of workers in nursing and residential-care facilities. As these occupations are some of the fastest-growing jobs in our economy, it is important to pause and take note of not just the absolute gains women are making in employment, but the ways in which they are being represented and empowered—or disempowered—at every level.
Jane Farrell is a Research Assistant for Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress.