2024 Women In the Workplace Insights

2024 Women In the Workplace Insights

Key Takeaways:

  • Following the pandemic-induced She-cession, women's employment returned to pre-pandemic levels by January 2023, marking a significant recovery in the labor market.
  • Various barriers such as becoming a parent, unequal distribution of home responsibilities, ageism, under-representation, and lack of support from other women continue to hinder women's progress in the workplace.
  • Women's desire for career growth and promotions is on the rise, emphasizing the need for effective mentorship and career development opportunities within organizations.

2023 was a groundbreaking year for women's empowerment, with historic firsts in academics and science, sports, politics, entertainment, and business. While much progress has been made for women, there is still much work left to do. Until there is a day when we no longer need special employee resource groups (ERGs) focused on women, articles like this one remain important beyond the month of March. 

The commentary below will cover the following:

  • The state of the labor market for women and key gains made in labor force participation, education, and entrepreneurship
  • Barriers that impact women in the workplace
  • What women job seekers are looking for at work


State of the Labor Market for Women

This month marks four years since the start of the pandemic, which ultimately drove 1.8 million women to leave the workforce, according to the Mom Project. By January 2023, the She-cession ended, and women’s employment returned to pre-pandemic levels. Prime-age labor force participation, which is women aged 25-54, closed out at 77.1 at the end of 2023 – just above the pre-pandemic baseline of 77% in February 2020, according to the St. Louis Fed. 

Chart Source: St. Louis Fed

And while all of this progress should be celebrated, there has been a reversal of progress in women taking on leadership roles. A recent analysis by LinkedIn points to women hired into leadership positions, director and above, falling in 2023 and even further in the first month of 2024. Those recent declines follow slow, but steady, progress from 2016-2022. Interestingly, LinkedIn sees that labor market tightness, or the ratio of job postings per applicant, plays a role in whether or not women will enter leadership positions. Their study also points out that this cannot be attributed to fewer women applying, as women are more inclined to apply for leadership positions during economic downturns.


Underemployment: A Key Factor

It’s evident by the rising numbers of women applying for leadership positions there is a desire to do more and grow capacity. As a result, another broader macro trend impacting women, which is underemployment. According to a recent Gallup survey, more women than men are not working in their preferred capacity. The study found that 27% of women, versus 20% of men, were unemployed. Underemployment can lead to a lack of ability to thrive and can lead to women experiencing more negative emotions like worry, stress, and anger, the study reports. These factors can cause an overall drag on the wellbeing of the workforce.

One component that can lift women’s ability to gain full employment is education. And this is an area where women have made much progress. According to the Pew Research Center, the proportion of women workers with a college degree is now higher than that of males (32.6 million compared to 31.9 million males). This educational advantage has allowed women to increase their presence in higher-paying jobs like doctors or lawyers. But, despite the growing share of women in these higher-paying roles, the gender pay gap has remained flat over the last two decades.

In 2002, the pay gap for women was 80 cents to the dollar of that of men, according to Pew Research, and had only moved up to 82 cents to the dollar by 2022. These numbers don't take into account all of the domestic labor women take on that goes fully unpaid.

Note: Interested parties can find an intriguing analysis performed by the St. Louis Fed on how to calculate and quantify the gap.

While the gender pay gap and the value of all women's unpaid work are pretty depressing topics, one bright spot in the overall macroeconomic environment for women is the rise in entrepreneurship and women-owned businesses. A recent report by Wells Fargo states that women-owned enterprises are forming, increasing revenue, and employing more people than male-owned businesses. While an overall gender gap between business owners still exists, the gap is narrowing, and women are proving resilient when creating wealth for themselves and their families. 


Barriers Impacting Women in the Workplace

There are many barriers that women in the workplace face, and this article certainly will not address them all. However, five topics that might resonate are becoming a parent, a more significant share of home responsibilities, ageism, under-representation, and lack of support from other women. 

diversity in recruitment


1. Becoming a Parent

There are many fascinating studies that show how women undergo a wage decrease after having a child, while men’s earnings typically increase with their transition to fatherhood. Here are three interesting reads diving in further on this topic: National Bureau of Economic Research, Duke, WSJ.

This penalty for women and premium for new fathers exacerbates the gender pay gap previously discussed. One factor driving this may be that more women take a career break. According to a new study published by LinkedIn, 43% more women have a career break listed on their profile than men in the U.S. – the most commonly cited reason being a full-time parent. 


2. A Greater Share of Home Responsibilities

Another factor that may tie into this is that women typically take on more at-home duties, which translates into considerable amounts of unpaid labor. A recent study by Homeaglow, published in the New York Post, analyzed the BLS Time Use Survey and Hourly Wage data to calculate the impact. The study found that men complete $3,909 worth of household chores per year, while women complete $10,341 worth of chores per year – a gap of over $6,000. 


3. Ageism

A third barrier women in the workforce face is ageism. This bias has been coined – Never the Right Age Bias. The gist of this bias is that women face it at every age. If a woman is early in her career, she might be considered too young for a promotion. If she is in her mid-30s and 40s, she may get passed up due to the perception of having too many family obligations. And if a woman is in her late 40s and beyond, she may no longer be considered dynamic enough. Here are two articles to learn more: Harvard Business Review and Voice of America


4. Under-representation

The next barrier worth mentioning is under-representation. McKinsey reports on this topic, and their research points to a broken rung in the career ladder, which happens at the manager level. Their study published this past October found that for every 100 men promoted from entry-level to manager, only 87 women were promoted. This gap is even greater for women of color, in particular Black and Latina women. Since this disparity is happening at the first step of management, it leads to a further gap in senior leaders down the road – since women typically hold only 40% of management positions in the U.S. compared to men. Looking at the C-Suite level, women hold one in four positions, while women of color hold one in sixteen positions, according to LeanIn

Interestingly, the perception of whether or not there are enough women in leadership highly varies by generation. According to Glassdoor research referenced in the HR Dive, almost 60% of Generation Z employees say there aren’t enough women in leadership, compared to 25% of baby boomers. The stat further emphasizes the importance Gen Z places on diversity.

women in the workplace


5. Lack of Support

The last barrier worth noting is that women may lack support from other women. The Center for Creative Leadership wanted to study why this may be happening, and they found that men’s performance review ratings increase when they show they value diversity in the workplace. At the same time, women receive lower competency ratings for the same. An article published in Forbes covers several other reasons why lack of support might occur, including the balance of power and competition. As the competition for those highly coveted senior spots increases, some women may be less likely to bring others along. 


4 Things Women Job Seekers and Workers Want


1. An Unbiased Interview Process

According to a recent study published by The Muse, 41% of women have encountered biased or inappropriate gender-related questions during a job interview. The good news is that companies are progressing in this space, as only 25% of Gen Z respondents reported discrimination in the interview process compared to 48% of Boomers. Here is a great blog post companies can use to ensure best practices are followed to avoid biases against women in hiring. 

Tip: Companies should ensure the hiring process is collaborative and representative of a diverse panel to evaluate candidates. 


2. Flexibility and Family-Friendly Benefits

Providing flexibility in when, where, and how work gets completed is foundational to recruiting and retaining women. It supports work-life balance, reduces burnout, and the ability to work more efficiently and productively, according to 83% of employees surveyed by McKinsey.

Family-friendly or other woman-specific benefits, like menopause support, are also critical to support women and stand out from competitors. Looking at the benefits provided by the companies on the Best Place for Working Parents list is an excellent place to benchmark efforts. Benefits like paid parental leave, support for nursing parents, and backup child care all top the list. Fertility and family-building benefits are also vital to consider, with more than half of respondents ranking it as either very important or important benefit to have, according to a 2022 survey by The Muse and Kindbody. That same study also showed that 45% of women ages 26-30 would also consider relocating to a new state if laws in their current state didn’t support their abortion views.

employer branding


3. Fair and Transparent Pay

Eighty-two percent of women choose “fair and equal wages” as the benefit they value most in the workplace, according to a recent Monster poll. Recent salary laws are helping women gauge this in a more transparent way. It’s also worth noting that 85% of new and recent grads are less likely to apply for jobs if the salary is not listed in the job ad. So, not only are candidates seeking transparency with salary – they are opting not to apply if it’s not included. 


4. Promotions

Ambition in women is growing. According to McKinsey, 80% of women, up from 70% in 2019, say they want a promotion. In addition to women desiring growth and promotions, they also report they are 79% more likely to seek out companies with equal representation of women in manager or leadership positions when looking for a new job, according to The Muse

Tip: Effective mentorship and career pathing progress can move the needle to help women gain the promotions they desire.



Recruitics is committed to helping our clients hit their diversity hiring goals. We actively support our clients in building an employer brand that recognizes and celebrates the importance of having a diverse workforce, so they are set up to recruit and retain diverse talent successfully. 

Additionally, we’ve recently added two niche vendors to our Reach Network dedicated to these efforts: Women For Hire and The Muse. We look forward to announcing the inclusion of more job boards dedicated to women in our network in the coming months. If you’d like to learn more about Recruitics and our expansive network we’ve built to help companies reach their hiring goals, contact us today.

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