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NIOSH Safety and Health Topic:

Women's Safety and Health Issues at Work

America's work force has changed quite a lot in the last 50 years. Though there are still more men in the workforce, the percent of women working has steadily increased from 34% in 1950's to 60% today. The percent of men working has been decreasing during this time, from 84% participating in the workforce in the 50's to only 73% working today.5

Women are now marrying later in life, staying in school longer, delaying childbirth, and having fewer children than in previous years.1 More women are choosing to continue working while also balancing the traditional parenting role.5

Women often face different workplace health challenges than men do, partly because men and women tend to have different kinds of jobs.2 Because of this, men and women experience different job-related problems. In terms of health, women generally have more work-related cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, respiratory diseases, infectious and parasitic diseases, and anxiety and stress disorders compared to men.3 Other areas of concern for working women include heavy workload demands, family balance issues, and sexual harassment.

NIOSH has done many studies to improve job safety and health for women. Information about some of these studies can be found by searching the topic index on this page.

1. Toossi, M. A century of change: the U.S. labor force, 1950-2050. Monthly Labor Review Online. 2002.

2. Hoskins, A. Occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities among women. Monthly Labor Review Online. 2005.

3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job-related deaths are less likely for women. 1998. [Cited on January 11, 2008].

4. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Women in the Labor Force: A Databook. 2007.

5. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Women at work: a visual essay. 2003. [Cited on January 28, 2008].

Page last updated: November 18, 2008
Page last reviewed: November 18, 2008
Content Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations, and Field Studies (DSHEFS)