SOURCE: Booz & Company

Booz & Company

October 15, 2012 10:00 ET

U.S. Women in the Workforce Confront a New Glass Ceiling, Finds Booz & Company Study

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - Oct 15, 2012) - One of every two people in the U.S. labor force today is female, but U.S. women are still fighting for an equal share of the economic pie. Women represent the majority (59 percent) of low-wage workers, gained fewer jobs in the post-recession economy, and have limited access to senior-level positions, according to Booz & Company's Third Billion Index, a ranking of 128 countries based on the social and economic status of women. The study, which examines how countries are empowering women to become economic growth drivers, shows that the United States could improve total GDP by 5 percent if female employment rates matched those of men.

"U.S. women are fighting a different battle than they were 20 years ago," says DeAnne Aguirre, a senior partner at Booz & Company. "Women have gained momentum as participants in the workforce, but continue to confront challenges such as finding positions that pay as well as men's and climbing the corporate ladder beyond middle management. The glass ceiling is the one between the management and executive level."

In the next decade, nearly 1 billion women will enter the labor force globally, with a potential economic impact as significant as that of the billion-plus populations of either China or India -- so the researchers have coined the term "third billion" to describe them. The third billion will forever change the social and economic environment for both men and women, globally, and their impact will be exponentially greater with the support of government leaders and business owners. Quantitative evidence in the Third Billion Index reveals for the first time that empowering women actually improves the prosperity of nations and the overall quality of life, including increasing per capita GDP, literacy rates, and access to education, and lowering infant mortality rates. The report, "Empowering the Third Billion: Women and the World of Work in 2012," provides an overview of the key findings divided by region, globally.

Key Findings:

  • The United States is ranked 30 out of 128 countries and is well above average; nevertheless, it is in the middle of the pack of leaders and has room for improvement. The U.S. was outranked by Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, and Norway, among many others.

  • Although U.S. women represent 49 percent of the workforce, they represent 59 percent of low-wage workers.

  • Child care is a major hurdle for U.S. women in low-wage jobs -- full-day care for an infant represents 41% of the median income.

  • U.S. women are encountering a barrier between managerial and senior-level positions -- although women have made progress in middle management, in 2011 women represented only 16.1 percent of the boards at Fortune 500 companies and 14.1 percent of executive positions.

  • Post-recession, U.S. women have fared much worse than men, gaining only 8 percent of the 1.9 million jobs added to the economy (as of August 2012). While men's unemployment rates have fallen, women's have risen.

  • Mentorship and support matter in both the private and the public sectors. Governments can commit to making purchases from women-owned businesses, and business leaders can become mentors. In a 2008-09 survey of entrepreneurs, 56 percent of women were motivated to become entrepreneurs after being encouraged by others who had founded companies.

This analysis was completed using data from data up to August 2012. So particularly for rapidly fluctuating statistics such as employment figures, it does not reflect any changes that may have occurred since that time. For a copy of the full study, or to learn more visit:

About Booz & Company

Booz & Company ( is a leading global management consulting firm focused on serving and shaping the senior agenda of the world's leading institutions. Drawing on the talents and insights of more than 3,000 people in 58 offices around the world, we help our clients achieve essential advantage by working with them to identify and build the differentiating capabilities they need to outperform.

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