More women are in the workforce now than 30 years ago and the proportion of women with children in the workforce has nearly doubled, according to Statistics Canada.
In 2009, 72.9 per cent of women with children under the age of 16 living at home were employed, up from 39.1 per cent in 1976.
Overall, there were 8.1 million women working in 2009, an employment rate of 58.3 per cent. While this is up significantly from 41.9 per cent in 1976, women are still less likely to be employed than men, who had an employment rate of 65.2 per cent in 2009.
However, the impact of the recent economic downturn was less severe on women than on men. Between 2008 and 2009, the employment rate for men fell 2.9 percentage points to 65.2 per cent, while the employment rate for women declined by only one percentage point in 2009, after reaching an historic high of 59.3 per cent in 2008.
The unemployment rate for women increased to seven per cent in 2009, the highest since 2003. But among men, it reached 9.4 per cent, the highest rate since 1996.
Men were hit harder by the downturn because the industries hardest hit by employment losses in 2009 were male-dominated. They included those in the goods-producing sector, mainly manufacturing, construction and natural resources.
In contrast, more women worked in service industries, such as health care and social assistance, and educational services, where employment continued to grow.
In 2009, 67 per cent of employed women worked in teaching, nursing and related health occupations, clerical or other administrative positions, or sales and service occupations. In contrast, 31 per cent of employed men worked in these fields.
At the same time, women have increased their representation in several professional fields. For example, they comprised 51.2 per cent of business and financial professionals in 2009, up from 38.3 per cent in 1987. The share of women employed has gone up in diagnostic and treating positions in medicine and related health professions.
Women made up 55.2 per cent of doctors, dentists and other health occupations in 2009, as well as 72.5 per cent of professionals employed in social sciences or religion.
While the employment rate for women with children has been steadily increasing over the past thirty years, they are still less likely to be employed than women without children.
In 2009, 72.9 per cent of women with children under age 16 living at home were part of the employed workforce, compared with 80.4 per cent of women under the age of 55 without children.
Single mothers are less likely to be employed than mothers in two-parent families. In 2009, 68.9 per cent of single mothers with children under age 16 living at home were employed, compared with 73.8 per cent of their counterparts in two-parent families.
This is a major shift from the late 1970s, when single mothers were more likely to be employed than mothers with partners.
Women are also still more likely than men to work part time. Nearly seven out of 10 part-time workers in 2009 were women, a proportion that has changed little over the past three decades.
In 2009, 2.2 million women worked part time. The share of women working part time rose from 23.6 per cent in 1976 to 26.9 per cent in 2009. In comparison, the rate for men in 2009 was 11.9 per cent, less than half that of women, although it more than doubled from 1976.
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