Working Women Are the Key to the Economy, Generate Over 1 Trillion in Revenue


Working women have been in the news a lot lately, and women have and will continue to be key to our economic viability. A record 20 women will serve in the U.S. Senate in the 113th Congress, and 81 will serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. Yahoo (YHOO) stock reached $19 on Monday, the highest it has traded in more than two and half years. CEO Marissa Mayer, the company's fifth CEO in less than a year, has gained the confidence of stockholders and is turning around the previously-struggling company. Women are affecting our economy now more than ever, as the history of working women in America in the past 50 years clearly demonstrates.

Since the 1960s, as more women have become wage-earners, technology, manufacturing, home service industries, and other businesses have created solutions for household tasks and child rearing. Women have pumped energy into the economy with their purchases of these goods and services. We also have an increasingly more important role in business, including our own small businesses that employ Americans and support the economy.

In 1967, when the women mostly likely to be earning wages were 45-54 years old, Mary Dublin Keyserling addressed a conference in New York on the topic, "The Homemaker Who Earns." "Lightened household tasks" and early childbearing were cited as major contributors to empty nests and women's availability to work. Reference was made to "new legislation," the Equal Pay Act of 1963, that was "counteracting the disadvantage" of women's salaries. In 1965, only 4.5% of working wives earned $7,000 a year or more. Median income for "families" was $6,882. We've come a long way from that, but we still have some work to do in the area of equal pay.

Working women created a need to reduce the time taken on tasks performed as housewives. By the late 1960s, food preparation time-savers were imperative, along with household help and multiple automobiles. By the 1980s, as women were poised to become the breadwinners and no longer the bread-makers, Japan released the home bread machine. Other time-saving devices, such as the DustBuster, Cuisinart and countertop microwave oven, became part of all modern kitchens beginning in the 1970s.

Working women helped create jobs and pumped money into the economy. The percentage of homes with domestic help increased as women returned to work, along with the numbers of childcare workers. We now spend more money eating out. In 1970, Americans spent about $6 billion on fast food; in 2001, it was $110 billion. 

By the 1980s, working women needed cars to get to their jobs. Whereas in 1969, 48.4% of all households only had one car, by 1983 it had dropped to 33.7%. U.S. sales (domestic and international) of new passenger vehicles in 1960 was 6,641,000, rising to 11,043,000 in 1985.

In 1967, women made up 29% of the work force (14 and older). In 2009, 43% of the work force (15 and older) was women. In October 2012, women represented 49.3% of all non-farm employees.

Today, women tend to have lower paying jobs, the ones with more flexibility to accommodate families, and those requiring lower skills. Thus, the wage gap does not reflect the higher educational achievements of women. In 2011, according the U.S. Census, 52.5% of U.S. residents 25 years and older who had attained at least an associates' (two year) degree were women.

Today, women are majority or equal owners with men in 45% of all U.S. businesses.  Women-owned businesses have some pretty impressive statistics:

Women-owned businesses employ 7.7 million people. In the past 15 years, the number of such businesses grew by 54%. There are 8.3 million women-owned businesses in the United States. These businesses generate revenues of $1.3 trillion. Over the past 15 years, they saw 58% increase in revenue, from $546 billion to $1.3 trillion.

More women have the sole or higher income in families. Men may earn less and be necessarily more involved in the child-rearing and household tasks. A 2012 survey of 1,410 American women and 604 men, ages 25 to 68, found that 53% of women make more money than their male counterparts. Increasingly more women are making higher salaries as a result of male partners losing jobs, divorce and late in life marriages.

More women are becoming business owners, holders of Congressional office, executives of companies, and even presidents of colleges. The more we work, the more we help the economy and have a say in it. We've come a long way since the passage of the Equal Pay Act, and certainly since 1967 when so few of us were working women.