Forget the “cession”: women will redefine the labor market


Employment updates

Are we moving towards the feminization of work? And could this lead to a more balanced workplace and economy? I believe the answer to both of these questions is yes.

The idea seems antithetical to the “Her-cession”, in which women dropped out of the workforce during the pandemic at higher rates than men in order to make up for a sudden loss of childcare and to shoulder the burden of home schooling.

But I think this is a coronavirus issue that will correct itself as schools reopen and life returns to some semblance of normalcy. Most women have to work, economically. In the United States, it is almost impossible to support a family on the median income of $ 67,521 if they don’t. Many, of course, just want it.

The general trend is that in the years to come, women will dominate and redefine much of the labor market as well.

Consider that female students now represent 59.5 percent of all college students. This trend has been brewing for some time, but it has received a big tailwind from Covid-19. While many mothers stayed at home with their children, more men have dropped out of college than women, in part to support families. In a few years, these female graduates will have a head start in the job market.

What about women without a diploma? If they do not return to work, it would be a blow to economic growth, which is a function of the number of workers and their productivity. But as schools restart, it is likely that they will. Take the example of countries like France, which kept schools open and had by far less attrition of the female workforce.

The fall employment numbers in the United States will be revealing on this front. But regardless of the monthly numbers, there is another reason to believe that the workforce will become more female in the future. A large number of the fastest growing job classes in the United States for the next decade are in the care economy, where women are disproportionately represented.

This part of the economy offers fascinating examples of how industries can change when there are more women in the workforce. An upcoming book by Harvard professor Claudia Goldin, Career and family: the journey of a century of women towards equity, examines how women have struggled to balance work and home over the decades. Among her many lessons is the idea that women’s participation in the workplace changes the very nature of work.

As women became doctors, for example, the possibilities for flexible work in the field increased for everyone. An increase in the number of female veterinarians changed the whole structure of the industry, which began to consolidate, as women generally did not want the 24/7 schedule that tends to accompany veterinarians. individual cabinets.

While the pandemic has hit working parents hard, it has also prompted a rethinking of work-life balance. Why are so many of us exhausted? Should rich country labor markets be bar-shaped, with too many jobs at the top and bottom and not enough in the middle? Can we all find a better balance? Wouldn’t it be better economically and politically if we did?

Already there are signs of change. Most large companies are moving to permanent flexible hours. Seventy percent of employees believe it will increase diversity in hiring, according to a McKinsey survey. Reducing long-haul business travel will make it easier for working parents to take on big corporate jobs. Companies even go so far as to privilege the “meaning” of work. Just watch investment banks automate more menial tasks, not only to save money, but also to attract better talent by providing better quality work for humans.

Of course, there are many contraindicators. Inequality continues to divide the labor market in a way that encourages more extreme hours, a result that generally does not favor women. At the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum, automated planning software has created a new high-tech Taylorism that is brutal on all low-wage workers, but especially hard on working families.

Yet despite all of this, I still believe the workplace will become more feminized – and perhaps more humanized – due to large-scale technological change. After software, artificial intelligence, and other cutting-edge technologies further disrupt the workforce, coding and care will be a big part of what’s left in the workforce. Even the number of programmers needed will be much less, because machines are more self-directed. Software, as Netscape founder Marc Andreessen said, will devour the world.

Meanwhile, an aging population and the need for better education will require more care, teachers, health workers and, of course, childcare for those who provide this work. Raising the skills and wages of people in this “care economy” is a top priority for the Biden White House.

Diversity has of course become a key objective for companies. But even if companies prioritize profit alone, they should look to hire more women, given data showing that stock performance can reach up to. 50 percent more when there are more women leaders.

With everything but the highest level of human capabilities commoditized in an increasingly digital world, the companies that thrive will be those with the most educated and empathetic workers. I suspect more of them will be women.

rana.foroohar@ft.com

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