The status of women, work and income is an ongoing and constantly changing theme in how America lives.
Previous to the start of WWII, only18-20% of women worked outside their home. Those who did work were mostly single women who worked as seamstresses, clerks, housekeepers and teachers.
However, the beginning of the 1900’s saw a growth surge of women taking jobs. Many women were seeking employment, fostering the establishment of the Women’s Trade Union League in 1903. It’s primary responsibility was to oversee working conditions. During WWI, women worked as mechanics, police officers and truck drivers.
Workplace conditions continued to be a major concern, and on June 5, 1920, the US Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau was established.
In the early part of World War II, 143 women went to work in seven airplane factories. Eighteen months later, 65,000 women worked in those same factories. Yes, 65,000. During that war, women left jobs as clerks, seamstresses and teachers to find better paying jobs in factories. Women not only built airplanes and other war materials, they drove trucks and felled trees in the Northwest, becoming female lumberjacks.
Today women comprise 47% of America’s workforce, according to Women and Work Current Facts and Reports from US Department of Labor Women’s Bureau Director Dr. Patricia Greene.
Changes in circumstances and opportunities reflect the attitudes toward and the value placed on women and work. Traditionally, women dominated certain industries and types of work, usually with lower pay. Today, that picture has changed considerably.
Advancements in opportunities for women have been hard won. A recent opportunity is an upswing in apprenticeships. The President’s Task Force on Apprenticeships in America is partnering with industries to expand the numbers of apprenticeship opportunities for women to Learn and Earn, giving them the background and skills to compete for these jobs. You can read all about it here. https://blog.dol.gov/2018/11/16/more-apprenticeships-more-opportunity
What Else Is New?
Affordable Day Care: To help mothers and fathers thrive in these and other opportunities, they must have access to quality, affordable childcare options. The President recently signed a federal budget to increase funding for the Childcare and Development Block Grants from $2.8 billion to $5.2 billion – the largest increase yet.
Business loans: Women entrepreneurs often have a difficult time obtaining a business loan. Recently, the Small Business Association increased their lending budget by $128 million for women-owned businesses.
Statistics: 70% of mothers with children under 18 are in the US labor force.
Mothers provide at least half of a family’s income in households with children under the age of 18.
Job growth takes time, and is an ongoing endeavor for women in America. The unemployment rate is at an all-time low, and training and education is opening up to prepare women to compete. Women still get paid about 20% less than men, things being equal. There are important issues that need to be addressed regarding the workplace, and the definition and value of “women’s work.”