BW #19: Working women
Women's participation in the US workforce is at an all-time high, after a dramatic drop at the start of the pandemic. This week, we'll look through the history of working women in the US.
Did you ever watch the show Mad Men? (If not, then you really should — it's quite good.) The show is about an advertising agency in New York, and takes place over about a decade, starting in 1960. In the opening scenes, we can see that the office is staffed by both men and women. But of course, this being 1960, there is a clear distinction between what jobs they have: Women are secretaries and typists, and men are ... well, they're basically everything else.
Over the next few decades, women made major inroads into the workplace. Yes, there is still discrimination, and yes, women still earn far less than men for comparable work. But there's no doubt that there has been a great deal of progress over the decades, as women now have positions of authority in numerous companies, universities, and organizations. Looking at the numbers, the progress seemed somewhat unstoppable.
But then the covid-19 pandemic occurred. Suddenly, we were all back at home. And while many men (like myself, I'll admit) started to work from home, women often found themselves out of work. That's both because women are often employed by industries that were disproportionately shut down, and because many of them took care of the children who were home from school, forcing them to leave their jobs.
This was sometimes called a "she-cession," because after decades of progress, the number of women was suddenly declining, even as men — especially men with white-collar jobs — were doing pretty well.
Fast forward a few years, and it would seem that the she-cession has ended. (Maybe it's a "she-covery"?) A piece on Marketplace several days ago said that women's labor-force participation has never been higher. (You can read/listen here: https://www.marketplace.org/2023/06/02/womens-labor-force-participation-rate-hits-an-all-time-high/)
This week, we'll look at data about women's participation in the US workforce, in order to better understand what happened, and what is happening now.
Our data this week comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (https://www.bls.gov/), a US government agency that collects and publishes a variety of statistical reports about labor and the economy. The data comes in the form of an Excel spreadsheet, which you can download from this page:
I didn't see a good, automatic way to provide you with the link, so you'll need to indicate that you want data from all years (starting in 1948), hit the "Go" button, and then click on the Excel logo just above the table at the bottom of the screen.
Load the Excel file into a data frame.
Wrangle the data such that the index will contain a datetime, combining the year and month. (The day can always be the first of the month.)