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Professional women bringing change to 'man'agement

Women have overtaken men in top management positions in the U.S. workforce, a recent study has found.

Women have overtaken men in top management positions in the U.S. workforce, a recent study has found.


Kim Keister, executive editor of AARP Bulletin, had his curiosity piqued when he read media reports that women had overtaken men in the workforce as a whole. He investigated and found that wasn’t true — but in the process uncovered the fact that women workers now hold 51 per cent of all professional and management occupations.


“The fact that there are more women in management positions than men is a recent phenomenon,” he said. Educational trends suggest that number at the top will grow as younger women progress through their careers. Women earn 60 per cent of masters degrees, 58 per cent of all post-secondary degrees, half of the medical degrees and 48 per cent of legal degrees, he says.


While there are women at the pinnacle of power, with Oracle president Safra Catz topping the list with a salary of $42.5 million in 2008, that may not be representative, Keister warned. “I really doubt that women are very well represented at the highest levels of business, but that’s just my instinct.”


Despite the changes at the top of the workforce, his research found women still earn $0.80 for every $1 men take home. He said the gap shows “progress, but there’s a long way to go.”


Another encouraging trend the AARP article pointed to was that while 10 per cent of women older than 50 hold management positions, so do eight per cent of women younger than 50, indicating younger female workers are climbing the corporate ladder quicker.


“I think that’s encouraging because (50+) women in the workforce have had a lot of time to rise to management positions. Under fifty, not so much, yet there’s not much disparity,” he said.


The high levels of university participation among women raises the question of why that doesn’t directly translate to even higher levels of management jobs, but it may be because women tend to delay or pause their careers to raise children more often than men. “We have better-educated mothers to raise better-educated children,” Keister said.


He compared the findings to a 1900 census that found just 20.6 per cent of women “engaged in gainful occupations.”


“We’ve come a long way from the 1900s,” he said.

 
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