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Virginia's Unemployment Numbers Show More Women Are Out of Work Than Men

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Gender disparity in employment and salaries is well established. But there is another aspect of the gender gap that has not received as much attention.

A look at unemployment figures in Virginia shows that men outnumber women. But that’s only one way to look at the gender gap. Looking at the number of people in Virginia who are not working — in other words people who are unemployed plus people who are not looking for work — reveals a hidden disparity.

“Six out of 10 individuals who are out of work in Virginia are women.”

That’s Shonel Sen at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.

“When you look at people who are highly educated, people who have at least a bachelor’s or more and also are simultaneously out of work, women outnumber men three to one.”

The gender gap is particularly strong among women aged 25 to 34. About 100,000 are currently not working. That’s the highest percentage of all age groups. Sen says a closer examination of those statistics could lead to new policies and support systems.

“There could be provisions made for affordable child care or eldercare. Better transportation opportunities could be provided. Work hours could be made more flexible for parents of young children.”

Overcoming structural barriers and societal norms won’t be easy, she says, but sustained pressure on the issue could lead to increased female participation in the labor force.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.
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