Data is becoming an increasingly powerful currency. Thanks to the capabilities of the Internet, there’s been a push for more open data and a “democratization of data,” especially from government sources. With the mass of data flowing into our hands every day, it’s become necessary to make sense out of all the noise using analytics and visualization. News publications and websites use graphs, charts, infographics, and other visual utilities to bring about a quick understanding of data.
Metamarkets is in this business of processing big data and providing fast insights for companies. We’re drawn to visualizations around the web that do what we do: make reams of data understandable. Along these lines, GE recently released a data visualization that charts the changes in the job force since 1960. This visualization displays information along multiple dimensions: sector, gender, and age. As you move a slider bar, you can see how various sectors have risen and fallen in prominence and how the gender and age makeup of the workforce has changed. GE has called out various observations around this data. One of these observations is the following:
From 1960 to 2000, the percentage of US workers that were women went up from 33% to 45%. But from 2000 to today, it dropped a fraction of a percent. What could explain this recent stagnation?
One of the most salient points of the last decade, of course, was the recession and the collapse of the housing bubble. If women lost jobs disproportionately to their percentage in the workforce, perhaps they were moving in and out of full-time work due to the child-rearing responsibilities that women often take on. Once the recession hit, these women who were out of the workforce may have found it harder to rejoin and they would have become part of the long-term unemployed or underemployed. But that’s just one theory.
Another potential reason why female employment has declined in the last decade is that women were heavily employed in sectors that got hit especially hard by the recession. Because the jobs visualization segments the changes year by year, we can get a fine-grained look at how the economy has fluctuated. Some of the biggest losers from 2008 on were: manufacturing, mining & construction, and trade, transport, & utilities. These first two sectors aren’t ones that traditionally employ many women. But, the trade, transport, & utilities sector—which includes retail, and went from employing 24.9 million workers in 2009 to 24.6 million in 2010—may have employed more women.
Still, the recession didn’t really get into full swing until 2008, which means it can’t account for a grand majority of the last decade’s changes. By exploring the “gender” component of the GE visualization, we get a better sense of what’s going on. On the whole, female employment seems to have grown slower than male employment in the last decade. Because female employment grew at a slower clip, it may have seemed to shrink as a percentage of the whole.
Readers, what do you think? Why might female employment have stagnated in the last decade? Comment here, or tweet your thoughts with the hashtag #WorkingInAmerica.
This blog post is sponsored by GE but all views expressed are those of Metamarkets.