Women’s History Month offers us a chance to celebrate how far women have come in the working world.

Today, nearly half of U.S. workers are women. Their growth in employment is reshaping household earnings dynamics. For 16% of U.S. households, women are the primary or sole breadwinners, and in nearly one in three households (29%), both spouses earn the same amount of money, the highest levels since data has been tracked.

Increasingly, women are opting out of work entirely by choice for many reasons, or they are opting out of traditional employment for the freedom of entrepreneurship.

No matter what choices they make, we want policies that expand opportunities for women, as we detailed in our recent Working for Women 3.0 report.

Take a look at these facts about women in the workforce:

  1. Women’s labor force participation rate was 57.5% in January 2024 — still below pre-pandemic levels. (St. Louis FED)
  2. The educational attainment of women ages 25 to 64 in the labor force has risen substantially over the past half-century. In 2020, 47.2% of women ages 25 to 64 held a bachelor’s degree and higher, compared with 11.2% in 1970. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  3. Over half (52%) of Juris Doctor (J.D.) recipients today are women, versus 30% in 1980. Over half (51%) of Doctor of Dental Surgery or Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.D.S. or D.M.D.) recipients are women, versus 13% in 1980. Half (50%) of Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) recipients are women, versus 23% in 1980. (Pew Research)
  4. Women now comprise 35% of workers in the United States’ 10 highest-paying occupations – up from 13% in 1980. (Pew Research Center)
  5. In 2023, women worked in notable occupations: 20% of surgeons, 30.6% of chief executives, 39.5% of lawyers, and 57% of accountants or auditors were women.
  6. Since 1980, the share of women dentists has more than quadrupled (from 7% to 33%), while the share of women physicians has roughly tripled (from 13% to 38%). The share of female lawyers has risen from 14% to 40%. (Pew Research Center) 
  7. Some 14 million women-owned businesses make up 39.1% of all US businesses—a 13.6% increase from 2019 to 2023. (Wells Fargo, Wipp Education Institute)
  8. Women-owned businesses generate $2.7 trillion annually. (Wells Fargo, Wipp Education Institute)
  9. Between 2019 and 2023, women-owned businesses added 1.7 million firms, $579.6 billion in revenue, and 1.4 million jobs to the economy. (Wells Fargo, Wipp Education Institute)
  10. Overall, from 2019 to 2023, the average revenue of women-owned businesses rose by 12.1%. (Wells Fargo, Wipp Education Institute)

Women have come far in this workforce and that should be applauded.

There is undoubtedly much more for women to accomplish in the workforce. Women still lag behind men in many other high-paying careers while 10% of Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs. Some of these differences are driven by choices and trade-offs that women make, which we should respect. However, for those who dream to aspire to new heights of leadership or business success, government policies should not be a hindrance.

Women are working, we just need policies that work for women.