Happy 99th birthday to the Women’s Bureau!
Answer: the U.S. Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor
Question: What connects:
- 2,000 tradeswomen marching the streets of Seattle during the Women Build Nations annual conference,
- An Early Futures brainstorming session hosted by the Omidyar Network (eBay), Sesame (Street) Workshop, and Promise Ventures
- grant funding research exploring paid leave programs,
- spouses of military senior staff convening around careers for military spouses
- and working across government agencies to develop a digital learning platform for women business owners
In 1920 only 21 percent of women were in the labor force but women were stepping up to replace men called away for the War. As a result, on June 5, 1920 the Women’s Bureau (WB) was born with the mission of supporting these wage-earning women many of whom were single and without children.
Over the next decades the WB critical issues and innovative solutions such as the creation of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women and unfortunately still relevant today, the Equal Pay Act of 1963.
Today 57.1% of U.S. women are employed. But a significant difference from the early days is that they are more likely to be married and mothers. In fact married women make up 58.2% and 71.5% have children under the age of 8. And so the percent of women working can sound like a positive for the economy, but when you raise the curtain, you see the great disparities across so many demographics and dimensions.
The Women’s Bureau energetically works, alone and with partners within the Department of Labor and across a number of government agencies (including SBA, Treasury, State, HHS, and amazingly enough, OMB), on research and programs related to paid leave, equal pay, early childcare and education, career building for military spouses, apprenticeships for women in nontraditional occupations, and women business owners growing their businesses. Each effort is directly tied to the WB’s goal of enhancing women’s experiences in the labor force.
As the WB marches toward its historic centennial next year, we see three primary reasons to celebrate.
- We celebrate the role that the Women’s Bureau plays in encouraging women’s participation in the labor force while recognizing the work still to be done regarding their workforce experiences and rewards.
- We celebrate the role that the WB plays in connecting the issues of women in the workforce as this is the one place that where it all comes together.
- We celebrate the continued efforts to find a common ground to bring the full rewards to women who are making a significant contribution to the workforce.
But for the long run, happy birthday and thank you to the Women’s Bureau.
Patricia Greene, Professor Emeritus, Babson College and former Director of the Women’s Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor
Candida Brush, Vice Provost and Professor – Babson College
Trish Costello, Founder & CEO, Portfolia and CEO Emeritus, Kauffman Fellows