Women at work
Female labour force trends in Alberta, part one
By Rob Roach, ATB Economics 15 November 2023 3 min read
With Women's Entrepreneurship Day coming up on Sunday (November 19), the Owl is profiling trends related to women in the Alberta labour force and business sector.
Working for someone else is different from striking out on your own, but entrepreneurialism is important among both employees and business owners—hence our focus on workers in general rather than just those who are self-employed.
In part one of this three-part series, we examine employment growth and employment by industry.
Female and male employment shares are closer than they used to be
The proportion of jobs in Alberta held by women has grown from 37.6% in 1976 to 47.1% in 2022. The proportion of women in the working age population has stayed roughly the same over this period at about 50%.
As women have been catching up to men over the last four-and-a-half decades in terms of their share of total employment, the number of jobs held by women in Alberta has increased by 248.0% compared to 135.8% for men.
Part-time employment remains more common among women in Alberta. In 1976, 28.1% of female workers were in part-time positions compared to 6.6% of male workers. As of 2022, it was 27.3% for women and 10.7% for men.
The pandemic was harder on female employment levels
Unlike the recession of 2015-16 when male employment fell more than female employment, the pandemic put a larger share of women out of work than men.
Comparing the situation just before the pandemic (February 2020) to the lows experienced after it was declared,* male employment fell by 13.6% compared to 18.6% for female employment.
By the end of 2021, both female and male employment numbers had bounced back and were above their pre-pandemic level.
Recent employment growth has been slower for women
Job growth among female workers has been lower than among men so far this year. Averaged over the first 10 months of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022, female employment is up by 3.0% versus a 3.9% increase in male employment.
Female workers are concentrated in the service sector
As of 2022, just 10% of female workers in Alberta had jobs in the goods-producing sector with the other 90% working in the services-producing sector. For male workers, the split is 36% goods-producing sector and 64% services producing sector.
Of all female workers in the province, 3% held oil and gas** jobs compared to 8% of all male workers. It is almost the same for manufacturing at 3% of female workers and 8% of male workers. The difference is even larger in construction with 3% of female workers in this sector versus 16% of male workers.
In absolute terms, male workers outnumber female workers in the goods-producing sector by 4 to 1 with construction topping the list at almost 6 to 1.
Health care, social services and education remain popular among female workers
The industry employing the largest share of Alberta’s female workers in 2022 was health care and social assistance at 23%. Only 4% of male workers were in this sector.
There is also a large difference when it comes to education sector employment with 10% of all female workers in this sector versus 4% of all male workers.
In absolute terms, women outnumber men in some service sectors and vice versa. The largest split in favour of women is in the health care and social assistance sector where female workers outnumber male workers 4.5 to 1. The largest split in favour of male workers is transportation and warehousing where they outnumber female workers by almost 3 to 1.
Numerous key service sector industries have an almost 50/50 split of female and male workers
There are five service sector industries in which the workforce is almost split evenly between women and men: professional, scientific and technical services; business, building and other support services; real estate and rental and leasing, public administration; and other services.
*Seasonally-adjusted employment dropped to its post-pandemic low among male workers in Alberta in April 2020 and in May 2020 among female workers.
**Includes mining and quarrying.
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Answer to the previous trivia question: Elected in 1921, Agnes Campbell MacPhail was the first woman elected to Canada's House of Commons.
Today’s trivia question: Who coined the term “glass ceiling” to refer to the invisible barriers women face in the workplace?