In just 15 years, the American workforce has become increasingly diverse, yet gender-based and racial trends remain stubbornly entrenched.
Since 2001, women workers have lost share of employment in 48 out of the 50 highest-paying jobs in the country, even though more women are in the workforce today and more are graduating from college, according to a CareerBuilder report called "The Changing Face of U.S. Jobs."
Some of the high-paying professions where women lost share include surgeons, chief executives and software developers. At the same time, women made sizable gains in many occupations that they have long dominated, such as registered nurses and personal care aids.
Interestingly, even though women now account for 59 percent of college graduates, they continue to focus on traditional fields for women, such as education and English.
"Women are gravitating toward industries that tend to be dominated by women," said Jennifer Grasz, vice president of communications at CareerBuilder. "From 2004 to 2014, 5.6 million more women than men obtained college degrees, but when you look at majors that men pursue, they are majors that lead to higher-paying jobs."
That occupational segregation has an impact on wages for the genders, the study found. Men have median earnings of $25.51 per hour, compared with $20.19 an hour for women. CareerBuilder estimates that occupational gender segregation contributes between one-quarter to one-half of the gender wage gap.
"Together, business leaders, policymakers and educators can reduce occupational segregation at the high end of the wage ladder by encouraging women to enter STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields and other fast-growing knowledge jobs," CareerBuilder chief human resources officer Rosemary Haefner said in the report. "Employers, meanwhile, must continue their efforts to weed out any system of discrimination that may exist, and create programs that support and seek out women who desire leadership roles."
Even though the trends for women were striking, CareerBuilder said the most dramatic shift in workforce composition boiled down to age. Teenage workers were the big losers from 2001 to 2014, with jobs held by 14 to 18 year olds declining by one-third, the study found. Those losses came in many typical after-school or summer break jobs, such as counter attendants and dishwashers.
The decline is linked to the economic recession, which threw more educated and older workers into competition with younger workers for low-paying jobs. A previous CareerBuilder survey found that about one-third of employers are hiring college graduates for roles where they would earlier have hired high school graduates, Grasz said.
"We're seeing a shift with employers wanting more educated workers even for entry-level positions," she added.
At the same time, the workforce is aging dramatically, thanks to the baby boom generation hitting retirement age. That has boosted the over-55 workforce by 40 percent since 2001. The study found that the 55-and-over crowd now hold 25 percent of the jobs in 210 occupations, up from just 86 occupations in 2001.
As the nation grows more diverse racially, that's showing up in the workforce. White employees held 69 percent of all jobs in 2014, down two percentage points from 2001. Hispanics and Asian workers gained share, while black workers held steady at 12 percent of all jobs.
But workers belonging to different racial groups tend to cluster in specific occupations, the study found. Black workers, for instance, tend to be in jobs such as nursing assistants and subway operators, where wages are lower. Asian workers tend toward professions such as software development and medical fields, where the pay is higher.
The study noted: "Access to higher education will continue to be a priority for achieving higher salaries and better jobs for all U.S. workers."