Last week CareerCast issued a report on the best jobs for women in 2015 and the results are interesting. CareerCast takes the data from Jobs Rated report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and they“represent the entire labor force for each career.” The rating is based on wages and outlook for growth. Here is the list of CareerCast’s 11 best jobs for women in alphabetical order:
I would have expected that STEM-related positions (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) would be at the top of the list but they are not. The only STEM-related jobs on the list are statistician, biomedical engineer, and actuary. Where are the software developers, the customer support reps, the hardware engineers, the sales support techs, the product managers, the test engineers, and other technology-based positions?
Three Reasons Why
I think there are three reasons why these jobs don’t appear at the top of the list.
- Discrimination: Clearly the well-documented hostility to women in those fields has pushed them down despite the higher salaries such jobs typically pay. According to ComputerWeekly.com, “While more than half of women say they have suffered as a result of gender discrimination, 62% of the entire workforce agree it happens, but don’t think it needs to be remedied.” And that applies to women who have actually been hired, not the ones who never made it through the door because of their gender.
As recently as this year, former Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Ellen Pao sued the Silicon Valley firm for gender discrimination — and lost.
- Outsourcing: More and more IT and other technology positions are being either offshored to other countries or given to H-1B visa holders here in the United States. In both cases, workers holding solid jobs that pay good wages are being replaced by foreign workers who cost the company a lot less.
The most recent—and outrageous—case is taking place right now at DisneyWorld where approximately 250 IT workers were laid off last fall. According to the New York Times, “Many of their jobs were transferred to immigrants on temporary visas for highly skilled technical workers, who were brought in by an outsourcing firm based in India. Over the next three months, some Disney employees were required to train their replacements to do the jobs they had lost.”
- Automation: It’s bad enough when your job goes to a foreign contractor who will work for less but worse when it’s taken over by a robot. According to The Wall Street Journal’s special section, “Meet the New Robots,” these mechanized workers are “nimbler, lighter and work better with humans.” Industrial robots are operating in many countries around the world right now and their numbers are growing.
Following the Trends
I would find CareerCast’s report more useful if it also analyzed these three factors in regard to the best jobs for women. The Big 3 will affect the best jobs for everyone, of course, but let’s stay focused.
So far, the trends are not good. Gender discrimination in the technology industry is rampant, acknowledged, and long-standing. According to a 2013 article in the Los Angeles Times, “The number of women studying computer science is shrinking and at many tech companies, only a tiny fraction of the engineers — 2% to 4% in some cases — are women.”
Why study for a career in an industry where hiring managers don’t want to hire you and, even if you get on board, you’ll earn less, will work in a hostile environment, and are less likely to get promoted than your male colleagues?
Offshoring is a continuing problem, which big companies disguise by claiming that they can’t find enough qualified people here in the United States to fill all the positions. This is propaganda of course, designed to divert attention from what is really going on: lowering costs by hiring armies of low-paid foreign workers a la DisneyWorld. Computerworld tells us, for example, that Disney CEO Bob Iger is one of eight co-chairs of the Partnership for a New American Economy, a leading group advocating for an increase in the H-1B visa cap. When this group briefed congressional staffers at the U.S. Capitol in April on H-1B requirements, we weren’t allowed to listen in: the briefing was closed to the press.
And automation is increasing as the technology improves and companies hire the cheapest workers of all—machines. This could easily undo not just technology jobs here in the U.S. but also the offshoring component. According to “Meet the New Robots” by James R. Hagerty, “Some of the latest robots are designed specifically for the tricky job of assembling consumer-electronics items, now mostly done by hand in Asia.”
The New Economic Calculus
It’s one thing for Hal Sirkin, senior partner of the Chicago-based Boston Consulting Group to say that “Robots are going to change the economic calculus for manufacturing. People will spend less time chasing low-cost labor.” Oh, really? Just what jobs are they going to chase then?
But very few people, like Mr. Sirkin, are taking this trend to its ultimate conclusion. Outside of science fiction, only Robert Reich has made the inevitable analysis with his analogy of the iEverything box:
“Imagine a small box – let’s call it an iEverything – capable of producing everything you could possibly desire, a modern day Aladdin’s lamp. You simply tell it what you want, and – presto! – the object of your desire arrives at your feet. The iEverything also does whatever you want. It gives you a massage, fetches you your slippers, does your laundry and folds and irons it. The iEverything will be the best machine ever invented. The only problem is, no one will be able to buy it. That’s because no one will have any means of earning money, since he iEverything will do it all.”
If the Big 3 factors are not addressed, then in five years CareerCast’s top jobs for women list will include only personal service positions like dental hygienist and manicurist that are already almost 100% female and can’t be offshored or automated. Well, I suppose that a dental hygienist could be replaced by a robot but the thought of one wielding those sharp pointed picks anywhere near my mouth makes my blood run cold. I’m just saying.