Twenty-five years ago, America was recovering from the double-dip recession of the 1980s, and women’s role in the labor force was beginning a multi-decade-long period of expansion. Today, as our nation’s economy continues down the road to recovery from the Great Recession, women are poised to be the engine of future economic growth. Women comprise half of all U.S. workers, and well over half of all American women are in the labor force. Women’s educational attainment outstrips that of men, and women’s share of union membership is growing rapidly. Families are increasingly dependent on working wives’ incomes in order to make ends meet.
Despite a quarter-century of progress, however, challenges remain. While the pay gap has narrowed over the last 25 years, the average full-time working woman earns only 80 cents for every dollar earned by the average full-time working man. Certain industries remain heavily gender-segregated. In addition, millions of women are struggling to juggle work outside the home with family care-giving responsibilities.
This report, which includes annual data from 1984 through 2009, provides a comprehensive overview of women’s economic progress over the last twenty-five years and highlights the additional work left to be done. The role of women in the American economy is of indisputable importance. The future of the American economy depends on women’s work, both inside and outside the home.