Evident of the shift away from manufacturing work in North America, Statistics Canada reports that there are now approximately 200,000 more women than men in Canada’s paid labor force.
The shift toward a majority female workforce is probably also further evidence that the current economic downturn has accelerated the shift toward a creative economy.
After all, jobs that have traditionally employed women are creative, or have become so in recent years. In addition to the female majority in problem-solving fields like health care and teaching, what were previously more rote occupations now require tremendous creativity and smarts. For example, the traditional “typist” or “secretary” who took short hand and then typed memos word-for-word now tends to be an administrative assistant or executive assistant empowered to draft the memos, use creative flare to format and polish documents going to clients, and organize the business lives of a group of people in her team – among dozens of other responsibilities.
Richard Florida has often touched on the role gender has played in shaping what we choose to do. Men (like Richard’s father) have often drifted into manufacturing jobs because it was the “masculine” thing to do, rather than doing something more creative that they might have enjoyed better.
Strong unions that emerged from “men’s labor” successfully lobbied to retain these masculine manufacturing jobs for perhaps years beyond when they made sense. They have, unwittingly, put many of their members at a huge disadvantage in the 21st century economy where different skills are needed.
Meanwhile, the multi-tasking, diverse roles of women’s lives – raising kids, managing a household, and often doing some paid labor – somehow seem to suit the newer, knowledge-based, and service-based economy that is ever-changing and workplaces that requires both firm direction and kindness, dedication to routine and ability to adjust to changing circumstance.
Happy belated Labor Day.
I welcome your thoughts, including how all of this relates to discrepancies in pay between “male” and “female” jobs and workers.