DOL’s Women’s Bureau: 99 Years of Creating Opportunity
Mary Anderson, the first director of the Women’s Bureau, stands with U.S. Secretary of Labor James Davis at the White House in 1923. (Source: Library of Congress)
Today marks the 99th anniversary of the creation of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau. Established just two months before the ratification of the 19th Amendment, the Women’s Bureau is the only federal agency tasked with focusing exclusively on working women by safeguarding their interests, advocating for their equality and economic security, and promoting quality work environments.
This year’s celebration comes during a time of unprecedented opportunity for all American workers, and especially women. More than 5.4 million jobs have been created in the United States since 2017. There are 7.5 million job openings in America, and job openings have exceeded job seekers for 13 straight months. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate is at its lowest in nearly 50 years. In fact, for adult women the unemployment rate of 3.1% is the lowest in nearly 66 years.
With our economy thriving, job creation growing, and the unemployment rate at generational lows, the Women’s Bureau is continuing our work to increase good, safe, family-sustaining career opportunities for women. We are committed to helping women not only enter the workforce but also advance and succeed in their careers through avenues like apprenticeship and entrepreneurship. In addition, the Women’s Bureau evaluates ways to support the upward mobility of women in today’s marketplace by promoting issues that are important to women and their families – including access to quality, affordable childcare and paid family leave.
We recognize the need to position women and families to succeed by creating opportunities that provide women the right work-life-family balance. Actions like the Department’s efforts to encourage states to adopt occupational license reciprocity and reform have significant benefits for military spouses (92% of whom are women) and others by making it easier for them to remain employed when moving to a new state.
The landscape for women workers has changed greatly since 1920. From the famous “Rosie the Riveters” to the bold entrepreneurs who helped pass the Women’s Business Ownership Act, to today’s working moms who are the role models for our future workforce, women’s contributions to the workforce have been immense. At the Women’s Bureau, we are proud of our role in helping women access more opportunity throughout our history.
We recognize that we have more to do to support women and families as they pursue family-sustaining career opportunities. And, while it’s impossible to predict what the next hundred years will hold, we can say with certainty that working women’s futures will be bright.
Erica C. Wright is the acting director of the Women’s Bureau.