Knowledge Center

Statistical Overview of Women in the Workforce



The Labor Force Participation of Women Has Increased Over 27% Since 19781 

In 1978 women made up 36% of the labor force compared to 45.9% today.2 

Women's Growth in Management Positions Is Increasing at a Much Slower Rate3

Women make up 15.4% of CEO positions.4

Although 27.4% of key management personnel positions are held by women, one-quarter of organizations continue to have no women in those positions whatsoever.5

  • Women hold 33% of senior management roles.6

  • Women represent 23.6% of board directors.7


Overall the Participation of Women in the Labor Force Continues to Grow8

Women were 47.2% of the total  labor force in 20159 compared to 37.1% in 1976.10

More men are in the labor force.

  • 61.2% of all women are in the labor force compared to 70.6% of all men (15 years and older). 11

The number of working mothers continues to grow.12

  • Since 1976, employment for mothers with children under six years old has more than doubled (from 31.5% to 68.1% in 2007).13
Women's Progress in Reaching Senior Management Positions Has Stalled14 

Men are two to three times more likely to be in a senior management position than are women.15

  • Women hold 35.5% of all management positions and 33.3% of all senior management positions.16
Canada Has a National Goal of 30% Women on Boards by 201917

There is just one woman CEO on the Canadian TSX 60.18

  • In 2014, Women held 20.8% of board seats at Canadian Stock Index Companies.19 


Women's Participation in the Labor Force Continues to Fall
  • Women's labor force participation rate fell from 34.1% in 19992000 to just 27.2% in 201112.20

Out of 323 total executive directorship positions (generally considered to be prerequisite to becoming CEO) on the Bombay Stock Exchange 100, just eight (2.5%) are held by women.21

  • 54% of companies on the Bombay Stock Exchange 100 have no women board directors.22

  • Women hold only 7.7% of board seats and just 2.7% of board chairs.23


Women Leave the Labor Force When They Marry or Have Children24

Women make up just 42.9% of the total labor force.25

The labor force participation rate for women in 2014 was 49.2% compared to 70.4% for men.26


United States

Women's Growing Labor Force Participation Peaked in 1999 at 60.0%27 


Women share of the total labor force is 46.8%.28

  • 56.7% of all women 16 years and over are in the labor force, compared to 69.1% of all men. 29

Women held 51.5% of management, professional and related positions.30

  • Women currently hold 20 (or 4.0%) CEO positions at S&P 500 companies.31


61% of all mothers with children under the age of three are in the labor force.32

  • The labor force participation rate of parents with children under the age of 18 was 70.1% for mothers and 92.8% for fathers33




Globally, Women’s Labor Force Participation Rate Decreased from 52.4% to 49.6% Between 1995 and 201534
  • The odds that a woman will participate in the labour force remains almost 30% less than they are for a man.35

  • Still, an additional quarter of a billion women have entered the labor force since 2006.36

Over 60% of the world's employed women work in the services sector.37

Women Face a Gender Wage Gap Globally, Earning 77% of What Men Earn38
  • Today, women earn what men were earning ten years ago.39

  • Global average annual earnings for women are11K, compared to men 's earnings of 21K.40

Women hold only 12% of the world’s board seats.41 



Catalyst Resources

Catalyst creates and maintains a line of statistical based product called Quick Takes and infographics, which will provide more information on specific countries as well as numerous topics. Browse all the Quick Take titles here. Selected titles:


Catalyst, Women in Australia (2015).


Catalyst, Women in Japan (2015).


Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in the Workforce: Canada (May 6, 2016).


Catalyst,Quick Take: Women in the Workforce: India (November 17, 2015).

Additional Resources

Deloitte, Women in the Boardroom: A Global Perspective (2015).

The World Bank, "Labor Force Participation Rate, Female (% of Female Population Ages 15+) (Modeled ILO Estimate)," The World Bank Databank (2016).

The World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2015 (2015).


The terminology was changed from "corporate officer" to "senior officer" in 2010 in an attempt to standardize across company type and provide Catalyst with more robust data. Catalyst has not found a statistically discernable difference in the overall officer population using these two terms.


How to cite this product: Catalyst. Quick Take: Statistical Overview of Women in the Workplace. New York: Catalyst, 2016.