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Luwanda Jenkins: Good signs for working women despite economy

There was a genuine spirit of sisterly good will and collegial applause among the 46 Leading Women honorees and the family members, friends and co-workers who came to commemorate their evening of recognition at The Daily Record’s second annual event on Dec. 1.

The amazing accomplishments of the dynamic under-40 overachievers captivated the audience.

While in awe of the other women sharing the spotlight, many of the honorees said they felt a sense of affirmation and inspiration about the recognition.

Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, deputy director of 1000 Friends of Maryland, said, “As a new mom this is an affirmation that I’m fighting the good fight.”

Jenna Boykin of Northrop Grumman said, “It’s an incredible honor to be recognized with women who are leading change.”

Indira Sharma, an attorney with Saul Ewing, described her experience this way: “This is such an inspirational event. Being surrounded by 45 other women is so inspirational.”

Progress in the workforce

The 46 Leading Women and all women in the workplace have reason to feel inspired, based on recent labor and market statistics on the gains women are making in the workforce. Here’s a snapshot of some key statistics:

-The labor market participation rate for woman 25-44 years of age rose from less than 20 percent to more than 75 percent between early 1900 to 2000, according to Business Week.

-The number of women in the labor force is projected to exceed 78 million by 2018, according to Monthly Labor Review-Online 2009.

The one sobering note in this otherwise upbeat trend is in the earnings wage gap between women and men in similar positions.

The Center for American Progress found that women earn, on average, 78 cents on a dollar for every dollar a man earns in a year. African American women earn 71 cents on the dollar, and Hispanic and Latina women earn 62 cents on the dollar. Asian women’s earnings are closer to parity with men at 95 cents for every dollar earned by men.

Wealth and spending power

-U.S. women spend more than $3.3 trillion annually.

-95 percent of family financial decisions are made by women (source: Women in Diversity/Business Women’s Network 2001).

-Women own more than 47 percent of stocks: and

-Women are projected to have acquired over 65 percent of the $12 trillion growth of U.S. private wealth between 1995 and 2010 (source: NASD and the TrendSight Group).

Advanced degrees

-In the U.S., for the 2009-2010 academic years, women made up 47.2 percent of law school students. In 2010 women were 31.5 percent of all lawyers, 45.4 percent of all associates and 19.4 percent of all partners, according to the National Association for Law Placement.

-Women in the U.S. earned 36.6 percent of the MBAs in 2009-2010, according to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

-Since the mid-1980s, the number of women in graduate schools has exceeded the number of men, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.

As we anxiously await the economic rebound, these statistics offer women, especially professional women under 40, a reason to rejoice.

And if this year’s group of 46 Leading Women honorees is any indication of the caliber of women in our marketplace, Maryland has yet another strong competitive advantage.

A member of The Daily Record’s Maryland Top 100 Women Circle of Excellence, Luwanda Walker Jenkins is Special Secretary of the Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs. You can email her at luwandajenkins@luwandajenkins.org.