The Changing Face of the American Workforce
Authored by Catherine Maillard, Danielle Hartmann, and
Jennifer Fraone at the Boston College Center for Work & Family
Women now account for half of the
American workforce, and are the primary breadwinners in 40% of American families
(Shriver, 2009). In light of these issues, we come face to face with the
realities concerning women in the workforce. According to the 2009
Rosabeth Moss Kanter Award finalists, even though employment can be a
source of support, there remain biases against women and mothers in the
The Motherhood Ceiling
Not only is there a glass ceiling, but there "could
be, in part, a motherhood ceiling" keeping women from obtaining high level
positions—or any positions at all (Correll, 2007). According to their
2007 study, Shelley Correll and her colleagues found that mothers were rated
less competent and less committed to work than non-mothers, and that the pay
gap between mothers and non-mothers is greater than the gap between men and
women. In addition, although women are now a significant presence in the
workforce, research finds that they are still the primary caretakers for
children and the home (Amilion, 2007). Despite advances, women, particularly
mothers, still lag behind men in terms of pay grade and division of household labor.
One Less Worry
Women can lessen their guilt about careers
negatively impacting family life—it's not true; employment can actually
be a source of support for women and families. According to Burchinal (2007),
early maternal employment does not lead to negative cognitive outcomes for
children. In fact, children in poor families whose mothers worked
full-time showed higher reading scores than children whose mothers were
unemployed. Employment can also be a safe haven and support system for women, especially
those affected by intimate partner violence (Rothman, 2007; Villareal, 2007).
Work can be a safe place for women affected by violence, and a source of both
economic and emotional support.
Although women are gaining ground in terms of
management positions, the majority of female managers are in low- to mid-level
positions. Cohen's (2007) study found that "the representation of women in management
reduces the wage gap," and that the more senior the female manager is in the
organization, the greater the impact on all women's wages. In order to make a
real impact in reducing the gender gap, women need to be given the chance to
have high-level management authority in the workplace.
Implications for Practice
See what corporations are doing to make women's advancement
and gender equality an integral part of their business.
Avoid building biases and discrimination against women and
mothers in the workplace
Understand domestic violence and the workplace and how to help
Learn about the state of women in America
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