(CN) — For the first time, college-educated women outnumber college-educated men in the U.S. workforce, according to a Pew research study released Thursday.
In the first quarter of 2019, 29.5 million women in the labor force had at least a bachelor’s degree, exceeding the 29.3 million men in the workforce who are college-educated, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Richard Fry, a senior Pew researcher who worked on the analysis, told Courthouse News he expects once the final Bureau of Labor Statistics data is in for all of 2019, college-educated women will outnumber their male counterparts in U.S. workplaces.
The milestone is an achievement directly correlated with income: women now comprise 50.2% of the college-educated labor force, up from 45.1% in 2000.
College-educated women earn $51,600 versus $36,000 for women overall, according to Census Bureau figures. But they remain less than half — 46.7% — of the overall workforce ages 25 and older, according to Pew.
Despite accounting for the majority of college-educated adults for more than a decade, women have only recently reached parity with men in the college-educated workforce.
They first received more than half of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the 1981-82 academic year. Today women earn 57% of bachelor’s degrees.
College-educated women in the adult population ages 25 and older surpassed the number of college-educated men in 2007.
Fry told Courthouse News it took several decades for the changes which began with young adults in the early 1980s to translate into changes in labor force demographics of the whole adult population, which includes middle-age and older college-educated adults.
But women are still less likely than their male counterparts to be in the labor force.
Last year, 69.9% of college-educated women were in the workforce, compared with 78.1% of college-educated men.
Fry said the lack of participation in the workforce is why it’s taken so long for college-educated women to reach parity with their male colleagues.
“Nationally, on a consistent basis, college-educated women are less likely to participate in the labor force. One suspects it has to do with child care and family responsibilities,” Fry said.
While women are at parity with men in the overall college-educated workforce, they’re still not equally represented in many occupations. Women account for just 25% of college-educated workers in computer jobs and 15% of college-educated workers in engineering jobs, according to Pew.
But in other occupations, including office and administrative support and healthcare practitioners and technicians, women are the majority of college-educated workers.
Now that more college-educated women are participating in the labor force, Fry said the gender wage gap will likely decrease.
He said gender parity among the college-educated workforce also means women are just as likely as men to be in managerial roles.
“It’s not just about money and pay, it’s also about responsibility and how high up you are in the American workplace,” Fry said.