Female Share of Federal Workforce Declining Under Obama

By Terence P. Jeffrey | March 19, 2014 | 4:48am EDT

President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at a meeting with a group of female members of Congress on March 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

"Women are still the ones that are carrying the greatest burden when it comes to trying to balance family and work," President Obama said last week to a group of women who serve in the U.S. Congress.

With this in mind, he is now planning a "White House Summit on Working Families" to take place this summer.

Obama is no doubt preparing to cast stones at the private sector. He really ought to look at his own administration.

Since Obama has been in office, according to data from the Office of Personnel Management, the percentage of women in the civilian federal work force has been shrinking. Before Obama took office, it was already smaller than the percentage in the overall national civilian labor force. Under Obama, it has gotten smaller still.

OPM maintains a database called FedScope that contains historical information going back to 1998 on much of the federal civilian labor force (but excludes, for example, the Judiciary, the White House, the Office of the Vice President, several intelligence agencies and the legislative staff of Congress). According to this database, about 44.4 percent of civilian federal workers were female in 1998.

In 2013, only about 43.5 percent were female — the lowest percentage in the sixteen years available.

In 1998, nationwide, about 46.3 percent of the civilian labor force was female — about 1.9 points more than the female share of the federal civilian labor force. In 2013, about 46.8 percent of the nationwide civilian labor force was female — about 3.3 points more than the female share of the federal civilian labor force.

The female share of the federal government's civilian federal labor force peaked in 2000. That year there were 1,762,559 civilian federal workers covered by the OPM database. Men accounted for 969,255 or about 55 percent; women accounted for 793,288 or about 45 percent (and another 16 federal workers were classified as having an "unspecified" gender).

In fiscal 2007 and 2008, the two years before Obama took office, the female share of the federal civilian labor force was trending very slightly upward, rising from about 44.2 percent in 2006 to about 44.4 percent in 2008.

In fiscal 2009, the year Obama was inaugurated, the female share of the federal civilian workforce started trending slightly downward.

In 2009, it was about 44.2 percent. By 2013, it had dropped to its 16-year recorded low of 43.5 percent.

In a report released last year, "Common Characteristics of the Government 2012," OPM published a table listing the gender composition of a subset of the federal civilian labor force it calls "non-seasonal full-time permanent" employees. This group, according to OPM, "includes all employees working a 40-hour work week year round with no absolute end date."

The female share in this group was even smaller than female share in the overall civilian federal workforce. In fiscal 2008, the year before Obama took office, there were 1,673,249 non-seasonal full-time permanent federal workers. Of these, 13 had an unspecified gender, 947,808 or about 56.6 percent were male, and 725,428 or about 43.4 percent were female.

In 2012, according to the OPM, there were 1,850,311 non-seasonal full-time permanent federal workers. Of these, none had an "unspecified" gender, 1,060,226 or about 57.3 percent were male, and 790,085 or 42.7 percent were female.

That is 4.2 points lower than the approximately 46.9 percent female share of the national civilian labor force in 2012.

The OPM data also indicates that women have a larger share of lower-paying jobs in the federal workforce.

In 2013, among federal workers whose salary level was between $30,000 and $39,999, approximately 51.9 percent were female and 48.1 percent were male. Among federal workers whose salary level was between $40,000 and $49,999, approximately 51 percent were male and 49 percent were female.

But among federal workers whose salary level was between $100,000 and $109,999, about 60 percent were male and 40 percent were female. And among federal workers who earned $180,000 and above, about 68 percent were male and 32 percent were female.

Nonetheless, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, there is still a smaller pay differential between men and women in "similar positions" in the government than between men and women in similar positions in the private sector.

Perhaps our entire economy would work better, and American families would have an easier time paying their own way, if the entire federal government was downsized — while treating all its remaining employees in an equitable and merit-based fashion.

That, however, is unlikely to be one of the options entertained by President Obama's summit on working families.

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