Knowledge Center

Women In The Workforce: United States


The Overall United States Population Is Aging

By 2060, the number of people 65 and older is expected to more than double.1

People 65 and older are projected to become almost a quarter (24%) of the population by 2060.2

  • Compared to 15% in 2014 and 9% in 1960.3
The Nation Is Becoming More Diverse 

By 2044, the United States is projected to become a "majority-minority" nation in which non-Hispanic whites will constitute less than 50% of the total population.4


Diversity Is Especially Concentrated in Younger Age Groups 

In 2014, almost half of the people under age 20 were members of a minority group.5

  • 48% of the youngest group were minorities, compared to 23% of people 60 and older.6 

44.2% of Millennials—those born between 1982 and 2000—are part of a minority race or ethnic group.7 


2015 U.S. Census data found that 50.2% of babies under 1 year old were minorities.8



Women Earn More Degrees Than Men

For the class 2015-2016, women earned more than half of bachelor's degrees (57.2%), master’s degrees (59.2%), and doctorate degrees (52.7%).9

For the class of 2014–2015, women earned almost half (49.8%) of all professional degrees, including:10

  • 47.8% of degrees in medicine
  • 61.9% of degrees in pharmacy
  • 47.9% of degrees in dentistry
  • 78.0% of degrees in veterinary medicine
  • 48.0% of degrees in law

And They Have Earned More Degrees Than Men for Some Time

Women have earned more bachelor's degrees than men since 1982.11


Women have earned more master's degrees than men since 1987.12


Women have earned more doctorate degrees than men since 2006.13


Labor Force

Women Are Nearly Half the Labor Force 

In 2017, there were 75,175,000 women aged 16 and over in the labor force, representing 46.9% of the total labor force.14

57.0% of women participate in the labor force, compared to 69.1% of men.15


The Overall Labor Force Participation Rate is Declining

Women's labor force participation rate peaked in 1999 at 60.0% and is projected to be 55.8% in 2024.16 


Men's labor force participation rate peaked in the 1940s and has been declining since. It is projected to be 66.2% in 2024.17




More Than Half of Management Occupations Are Held by Women 

In 2017, women held 51.6% of all management, professional, and related occupations and 44.0% of the subcategory management, business, and financial operations occupations.18 

In S&P 500 Companies, Women Are Less Represented the Higher Up They Go19

Corporate Boards

The Overwhelming  Majority of New Directorships Continue to Go to Men20

In 2016, men held 78.8% of S&P 500 board seats, while women held 21.2%.21


Men held 74.3% of S&P 500 new directorships, while women held 25.7%.22


21.0% of S&P companies had one woman director, and only 16.9% of companies had 30% or more women on their boards.23


Additional Resources

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Women in the Labor Force: A Databook (November 2017).

Catalyst, Quick Take: Women’s Earnings and Income.

Catalyst, Quick Take: Women of Color in the United States.

Catalyst, Quick Take: Working Parents.

Gretchen Livingston, "Is U.S. Fertility at an All-Time Low? It Depends," Pew Research Center Fact Tank, January 18, 2018.

Institute for Women's Policy Research, "The Status of Women and Girls." 

Mitra Toossi and Teresa L. Morisi, "Women In The Workforce Before, During, And After The Great Recession," Spotlight on Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (July 2017).

US Census Bureau, "Women’s History Month: March 2018." 



How to cite this product: Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in the Workforce: United States (March 28, 2018).