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U.S. women face ceiling at middle management, study shows

Thursday, October 18, 2012  
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One of every two people in the U.S. labor force today is female, but U.S. women are still fighting for an equal share of the economic pie, according to a new study by Booz & Co.

Women represent the majority (59 percent) of low-wage workers, gained fewer jobs in the post-recession economy and have limited access to senior-level positions, according to "Empowering the Third Billion: Women and the World of Work in 2012,” which includes The Third Billion Index, a ranking of  countries based on the social and economic status of women.

The United States ranked 30 out of 128 countries in The Third Billion Index, well above average. Nonetheless, the country is in the middle of the pack of leaders and has room for improvement, Booz & Co. reported. The United States is outranked by Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany and Norway, among many others. 

Although women have made progress in middle management, in 2011 women represented only 16.1 percent of the boards at Fortune 500 companies and 14.1 percent of executive positions in those firms. "U.S. women are fighting a different battle than they were 20 years ago,” said DeAnne Aguirre, a senior partner at Booz & Co. "Women have gained momentum as participants in the workforce, but continue to confront challenges such as finding positions that pay as well as men's and climbing the corporate ladder beyond middle management. The glass ceiling is the one between the management and executive level."

The United States could improve total gross domestic product by 5 percent if female employment rates matched those of men, the study found. One major hurdle: Child care is a major hurdle for U.S. women in low-wage jobs; full-day care for an infant represents 41 percent of the median income.

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