Women in Business: Then & Now

This year, the Women’s Business Council is celebrating 30 years of promoting the role of women in the workplace! That got us thinking a lot about what life was like for working women in 1986, and we found some pretty interesting statistics…

chalabi-datalab-dearmona0205A post over at FiveThirtyEight explains that less than a quarter of women out-earned their husbands 30 years ago. Today, women are the primary breadwinners in 38% of heterosexual American marriages.

According to the Pew Research Center, just 20 years ago, there weren’t any female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Today, there are 26. That’s still a very small percentage (5.2), but at least there’s been some progress.

Young Women Outpacing Young Men in College CompletionYoung women were just beginning to outpace young men in college graduation rates in the late 80’s. Today, 37% of women ages 25-29 hold at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to just 30% of men in the same age range. And women today are more likely to continue their education, earning the majority of master’s (60%) and doctorates (51%) in 2012.

We found some great data in Working Mother’s 30th anniversary Best Companies report. For example: in the late 1980’s, only 5 out of Working Mother’s 30 Best Companies offered fully paid maternity leave. Today, all 100 Best Companies offer fully paid leave to full-time employees.

All 100 Best Companies also offer flextime and telecommuting, compared to just 7 out of 30 who offered flextime in 1986. Back then, only 2 Best Companies allowed employees to work from home.

The Narrowing of the Gender Wage Gap, 1980-2012Of course, women in the workplace continue to face a gender wage gap. And some reports suggest that men are going to keep out-earning women in America until 2058! But going back to Pew Research Center data, we find at least a few promising numbers:

First, we see that the gender wage gap is narrowing, especially for young women. In 1980, women’s hourly wages were less than 70% those of men. By 2012, that percentage had increased to 84% among all female workers, and 93% among female workers ages 25-34.

The Pew Research report also points out that (although men’s hourly earnings remain higher than women’s overall) wages are trending up for women and down for men over the last 30 years. Median hourly earnings (in 2012 dollars) were just $11.94 for women in 1980, compared to $14.90 in 2012.

Much of our fact-finding showed progress for women in the workplace over the last 30 years. But it also showed lots of room for continued improvement. As the Women’s Business Council celebrates 30 years in the Capital Region, it’s clear that we have lots of work left to do.

During our anniversary year, we’ll be looking back at some of the big moments and influential women who’ve shaped the WBC since 1986. Keep following the WBC Voice and join us at one of our upcoming events to come along on the journey!

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