Women in the Workforce Reached Record Highs in April
Workspan Daily
May 26, 2023

During the pandemic, millions of women lost their jobs or left the workforce to care for loved ones, which triggered a so-called “she-cession.” Now, however, organizations have more women on their payrolls than ever before, Bloomberg News reports.  

This peak is due in part to a steady rise in the share of women ages 25 to 54 who are employed or searching for work. The participation rate for that group climbed to a record high of 77.5% in April, surpassing a peak reached in 2000, according to government labor data going back to the 1940s.  

“We have gotten back to the best that women had ever done historically,” Kathryn Anne Edwards, a labor economist, told Bloomberg.  

The bounce-back reflects everything from the rise of remote work to long-term trends such as more women getting college degrees, Bloomberg noted. But more than anything, it is driven by economic conditions: The U.S. job market is strong, lifting participation for a variety of groups, and persistent inflation has pressured families to find ways to offset soaring costs. 

Job openings, while declining, continue to outnumber unemployed workers 1.6 to 1, and the unemployment rate – now just 3.4% – matches its lowest level since the early 1950s. That disconnect between labor demand and supply has forced businesses to rapidly increase wages to attract and retain workers.  

While a strong labor market has allowed many women to pursue better job opportunities with higher pay and more attractive benefits, much of the hiring need now is in lower-paying sectors like leisure and hospitality and home health services.  

While Edwards hailed the record participation as “good news,” it’s not clear the gains can be built upon, or even maintained, she said.  

Uber Suspends DEI Chief Over Controversial Workplace Event  

Uber has suspended its head of diversity, equity and inclusion after Black and Hispanic employees complained about the workplace event she moderated exploring the experience of White American women under the title “Don’t Call Me Karen,” the New York Times reported.  

Bo Young Lee, the company’s longtime head of DEI, was asked by Uber execs to “step back and take a leave of absence while we determine next steps” according to an email viewed by the Times.  

Employees’ concerns centered on a pair of events, one last month and another last Wednesday, that were billed as “diving into the spectrum of the American White woman’s experience” and hearing from White women who work at Uber, with a focus on “the ‘Karen’ persona.” They were intended to be an “open and honest conversation about race,” according to the invitation. 

But workers instead felt that they were being lectured on the difficulties experienced by White women and why “Karen” was a derogatory term and that Lee was dismissive of their concerns, according to messages sent on Slack that were viewed by the Times

The term Karen has become slang for a White woman with a sense of entitlement who often complains to a manager and reports Black people and other racial minorities to the authorities.  

Employees felt the event organizers were minimizing racism and the harm White people can inflict on people of color by focusing on how “Karen” is a hurtful word, according to the messages and an employee who attended the events.  

Employees greeted the news that Lee was stepping away as a sign that Uber’s leadership was taking their complaints seriously, the Times reported.  

Meta Begins Fresh Round of Layoffs  

Meta has begun its third round of layoffs as part of the company’s continued plan to cut costs and become more efficient in 2023 and beyond, CNBC reports.  

The latest round of cuts targets members of Meta’s business groups and follows a previous round of layoffs in April that affected employees in technical roles. About 10,000 workers will lose their jobs between the April and May cuts, following the company’s first round in November that affected 11,000 employees, CNBC reported.  

Meta employees with roles in user experience, marketing, recruiting and engineering took to LinkedIn to announce they had been let go on Wednesday.  

The cuts are part of Meta’s so-called year of efficiency, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg pitched as necessary for the company to slim down and become more nimble amid a challenging economy and weakened digital advertising market. 

“As I’ve talked about efficiency this year, I’ve said that part of our work will involve removing jobs — and that will be in service of both building a leaner, more technical company and improving our business performance to enable our long-term vision,” Zuckerberg said in March in a post. “I understand that this update may still feel surprising, so I’d like to lay out some broader context on our vision, our culture, and our operating philosophy.” 

Disney Begins Third Round of Layoffs  

As reported by CNN, a third wave of expected layoffs is underway at Disney. More than 2,500 staff are expected to lose their jobs in what is expected to be the final round of layoffs that were previously announced by CEO Bob Iger.  

The first two waves of layoffs took place in March and April, eliminating roughly 4,000 jobs, including at ESPN, Disney’s entertainment division, Disney Parks, and its Experiences and Product division.  

The cuts, which should total approximately 7,000 employees from Disney’s global workforce, is aimed at saving $5.5 billion in costs. The labor cuts make up 30% of this figure, with another 50% coming from marketing operations and 20% from decreased spending on  technology, procurement and other expenses, CNN reported.  

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