Women Make Gains in the Workplace Amid a Rising Demand for Skilled Workers

Women Make Gains in the Workplace Amid a Rising Demand for Skilled Workers

The gender wage gap narrows as women move into high-skill jobs and acquire more education

BY RAKESH KOCHHAR

How we did this

Employers in the United States are increasingly in pursuit of workers who are adept in social skills, like negotiation and persuasion, and have a strong grounding in fundamental skills, such as critical thinking and writing. In the past nearly four decades, employment in the U.S. has expanded most rapidly in jobs in which these skill sets are most valued. Jobs attaching greater importance to analytical skills, such as science, mathematics and programming, are also hiring workers at a brisk pace.1

Amid a growing need for skilled workers, women lead in filling jobs in which social, fundamental and analytical skills are most important

Terminology

Women are in the vanguard of meeting these challenges. Not only have women been entering the labor force in greater numbers than men since 1980, they have made their presence felt more strongly in jobs with the greatest reliance on these types of skills.

Presently, women are in the majority in jobs that draw most heavily on either social or fundamental skills – such as legal, teaching and counseling occupations – accounting for 52% of employment in these jobs in 2018 (up from roughly 40% in 1980). The share of women has also risen greatly among those working in occupations that rely most on analytical skills – such as accounting and dentistry – from 27% in 1980 to 42% in 2018, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data.

Skill groups and the occupations with the greatest need for them

The 35 skills whose importance is rated in O*NET are grouped into five major families of job skills as follows:

Social skills – instructing, service orientation, monitoring, social perceptiveness, coordination, negotiation, persuasion
Fundamental skills – critical thinking, writing, speaking, reading comprehension, active listening, active learning, learning strategies, judgment and decision making
Analytical skills – science, mathematics, programming, complex problem solving, systems analysis, systems evaluation, operations analysis, technology design
Managerial skills – management of personnel resources, management of financial resources, management of material resources, time management
Mechanical skills – troubleshooting, equipment selection, equipment maintenance, repairing, installation, operation monitoring, quality control analysis, operation and control

Examples of occupations with among the greatest need for these skill groups are as follows:

Social skills – Sales managers, coaches and scouts, marriage and family therapists
Fundamental skills – Lawyers, psychiatrists, education administrators
Analytical skills – Physicists, biomedical engineers, computer and information research scientists
Managerial skills – Chief executives, construction managers, medical and health services managers
Mechanical skills – Signal and track switch repairers, industrial machinery mechanics, millwrights

The growing presence of women in higher-skill

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