For The First Time, Women Are The College-Educated Workforce Majority

Download Audio
A woman at a job fair in New York talks to an employer. (Seth Wenig, File/AP)
A woman at a job fair in New York talks to an employer. (Seth Wenig, File/AP)

2019 marks the year women cross over into the majority of the college-educated workforce. It’s already bringing changes to corporate life, from benefits packages to flexible schedules.


Nicole Smith, chief economist at Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. (@GeorgetownCEW)

Ariane Hegewisch [HEH-geh-vish], program director of employment and earnings at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. (@ArianeIWPR)

George Boue, vice president of human resources for the Stiles Corporation, a commercial real estate firm. He's also a panelist at the Society for Human Resource Management. (@SHRM, @StilesCRE)

From The Reading List

Wall Street Journal: "Historic Rise of College-Educated Women in Labor Force Changes Workplace" — "This year is shaping up to be the first year that women make up the majority of the college-educated labor force, a milestone that is already altering benefits packages offered by companies and one that could influence family sizes in the future.

"Women make up only 46.6% of the overall labor force, but they first reached 45% of the college-educated labor force at the turn of the century. Since 2013, the female share of college-educated workers has been around the 49% mark, with 2019 being the year that women cross into a very slight majority. Nicole Smith, chief economist at Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, said this development overall is a positive one.

"'It is the culmination of a trend that started maybe over 40 years ago,' Ms. Smith said. 'It’s going to give women a lot more earning potential. It’s going to give them more control over their finances, their own destiny.'

"According to the Census Bureau, women-led households made up a little more than 26% of all households in 1980. By 2018, that number grew to 30.5%, although broader social changes contribute to this trend as well."

New York Times: "College-Educated Women Are the Workplace Majority, but Still Don’t Get Their Share" — "We’ve reached a tipping point in the United States: For the first time, there are more college-educated women in the work force than college-educated men.

"That’s according to a new study from Pew Research, which analyzed data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It found that women 25 and older now make up 50.2 percent of the college-educated work force — up about 11 percent since 2000.

"In some ways, the increase is a natural progression.

"Women have been earning the majority of bachelor’s degrees, and more advanced degrees, in the United States since the early 1980s, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Of those who earned a bachelor’s degree last year, 57.5 percent were women.

"And yet historically, women have been less likely to enter the work force at all after graduation — 36 percent less likely, according to Bloomberg. It wasn’t until this year that they edged out men with similar degrees to become the majority."

This program aired on October 10, 2019.


Headshot of Meghna Chakrabarti

Meghna Chakrabarti Host, On Point
Meghna Chakrabarti is the host of On Point.


Headshot of Stefano Kotsonis

Stefano Kotsonis Senior Producer, On Point
Stefano Kotsonis is a senior producer for WBUR's On Point.



More from On Point

Listen Live