Women and Gender Parity in the Federal Workforce

by Ann Dermody // Oct 09, 2018 CQ Federal

When most civilians outside the D.C. metro area are asked who they think is the  biggest employer in the U.S., companies such as G.E, McDonalds, and Walmart are the most commonly thrown about names.

But approximately 2.1 million ordinary folks work for the U.S. federal government, making it one of the largest employers in the country. The 15 Cabinet and 107 independent agencies employ 1.5% of the American workforce.

Given that women comprise about 51% of the U.S. population, it would seem logical they’d roughly hold 51% of the government jobs.

But do they?

Actually, no. There are less women than men working for the U.S. government and women’s representation has not increase during the last 20 years.

But that’s not the whole story.

This paper delves into questions surrounding women’s representation in the federal bureaucracy.

Are women and men equally likely to work for the government?

Are there differences in men and women’s propensity to hold leadership positions?

How has women’s representation in the civil service changed over the past 20 years?

Those and many more questions are answered in our paper on Women’s Representation in the Federal Government.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), an independent Executive Branch agency, provides information about U.S. federal employees through FedScope. That data includes characteristics such as gender, age, and education level of civilian employees across the Cabinet and independent agencies.

We’ve compiled that available data from over the past two decades, for the first time, to look at how the large cabinet and independent agencies have changed in terms of numbers and gender parity over time.

As you might expect, the lack of female civil servants is most pronounced among the highest ranks in the federal workforce, the Senior Executive Service (SES), but the data does show some progress for women in leadership roles.

By delving into the SES numbers, we can see better the patterns women’s professional development is likely or unlikely to take at at a federal agency.

And the results are occasionally surprising. For example, the Department of Transportation has one of the smallest numbers of women employees. A paltry 26% of their workers, and that’s actually gone down a percentage point from 27% in 1997. But at SES level 40% of their executives are women.

For this and many more surprises, download the report now!