Today the Senate failed to pass legislation aimed at closing the pay gap between the sexes, and a lot of attention is being paid to the extent of that gap and what can be done about it. I have blogged about this issue several times, but for this week I decided to look at a different male/female issue: Who has the better outlook for job growth?
To answer this question, I assembled figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on the percentage of men and women in various occupations and the projected workforce growth (2012 to 2022) of those same occupations. Then I calculated the correlation between male/female presence and job growth.
Before I tell you my findings, here are two important caveats: (1) Figures for percentage of women are not available for many occupations. In most cases where figures are lacking, it is because the occupation is so heavily male that the sample of women incumbents is statistically insignificant. So instead of basing my correlations on detailed occupations, I based them on 22 families of occupations—for example, Management Occupations and Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations. (2) My correlations are based on the present representation of the sexes in the occupations, not what the percentages will be by the time the projection period is over. It is possible that by 2022 we may see different gender ratios in some occupations.
Okay, now for my findings: The correlations between these occupational families and their outlook worked out to be 0.47 for women and -0.47 for men. In other words, there is a significant tendency for female presence in an occupational family to predict expansion of the workforce, whereas male presence tends to be linked to a shrinking workforce.
If you have been following trends in the economy, these findings should not be surprising. The fastest-growing (28.1 percent) segment of the economy is Health-Care Support Occupations, and many of the fastest-growing occupations in that segment are those (such as Registered Nurses) that are heavily dominated by women. Women are also prominent in another fast-growing (20.9 percent) segment, Personal Care and Service Occupations.
If you delve down to a level of greater detail, the correlations seem to be much less strong. I ran correlations using detailed occupations for which female percentages are reported and found results that were vanishingly close to zero. Now, understand that to create these calculations, I had to throw out a large number of occupations that had no female percentage reported, and in many cases these discarded occupations were virtually all-male. Many of them were in the Production Occupations sector, so I lost much of the drag of this sector (0.8 percent growth) on male prospects. On the other hand, many of these virtually-all-male occupations were in the Construction and Extraction Occupations sector, which is second only to Health-Care Support Occupations in projected growth (21.4 percent).
All things considered, I believe it likely that at a more detailed level, the relationship between gender presence and outlook is more tenuous. So if you seek an occupation with a good outlook, make a point of learning the growth projected for that specific occupation, and don't base your expectations solely on the female or male presence in the occupation.