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.

 Women’s Safety and Health Issues at Work

Job Area

Health Concerns


Bloodborne Diseases



Health Care

Ergonomics and Muscle/Bone Disorders 


Heart Disease


Personal Protective Equipment


Reproductive Health


Respiratory Diseases 


Serious Injury 


Work Structure and Stress 

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].