(February 2001) In recent decades, the biggest change in the American occupational structure has been the increasing representation of women in the managerial, administrative, and professional ranks.1 Since 1985, the percentage of women who are managers or professionals has increased from 24 percent to 32 percent.

But there are still occupational categories where women or men are heavily concentrated. For example, nearly one in four working women are in administrative support positions, compared with about one in 20 men. Nearly one in five working men are precision production workers,2 compared with one in 50 working women. Also, a higher proportion of working women than of working men are classified as professionals, but most professional women are primary or secondary school teachers and registered nurses.

The movement of women into the highest-paid occupational categories has helped reduce the difference between women’s and men’s wages. In 1999, the median wage for women who worked full-time, year-round was $473 per week, compared with $618 per week for men. Even within occupational categories, however, women’s wages remain lower than men’s.

1 Professionals include professional specialists, nurses, and teachers.
2 Precision production workers include mechanics, repairers, and those in construction trades and other precision production occupations.



Composition of the Female and Male Work Forces, by Occupation, 2000
(Numbers in Thousands)

Category # Women % of Female Work Force in Group # Men % of Male Work Force in Group
Executives, managers 8,888 14.1 10,877 15.3
Professional, specialty 11,309 17.9 9,420 13.2
Technicians 2,324 3.7 2,060 2.9
Sales 7,931 12.6 8,207 11.5
Administrative support 15,112 23.9 3,908 5.5
Private household 843 1.3 40 0.1
Protective service 431 0.7 1,934 2.7
Other services 9,938 15.7 5,485 7.7
Farming, forestry, fishing 729 1.2 2,515 3.5
Precision production 1,410 2.2 12,975 18.2
Machine operators 2,576 4.1 4,775 6.7
Transportation, material moving 554 0.9 4,786 6.7
Handlers, laborers 1,056 1.7 4,254 6
Total 63,102 100 71,237 100


Representation of Women and Men in Major Occupations, 2000, %

  Women Men Total
Executives, managers 45 55 100
Professional, specialty 55 45 100
Technicians 53 47 100
Sales 49 51 100
Administrative support 80 20 100
Private household 95 5 100
Protective service 18 82 100
Other services 64 36 100
Farming, forestry, fishing 23 77 100
Precision production 10 90 100
Machine operators 35 65 100
Transportation, material moving 10 90 100
Handlers, laborers 20 80 100
Total work force 47 53 100

Citations

PRB analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (March 1999); Mary Bowler, “Women’s Earnings: An Overview,” Monthly Labor Review 122: 12 (December 1999): 13-21; and U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Highlights of Women’s Earnings in 1999,” Report 943 (May 2000).