Workforce

Workforce originated in 1947 and derives from the nouns “work” and “force.” Old English weorc referred to “something done, a discreet act performed by someone, a voluntary or required action, a proceeding, or a business” (“Work”).  The Old English term was also defined as “physical labor, toil, a skilled trade, craft or occupation, or an opportunity of expending labor in some useful or remunerative way” (“Work”).  The noun “force” originated around 1300 from Old French force, Vulgar Latin fortia, and the noun use of the neuter plural of Latin fortis, which means “strong, mighter, firm, steadfast, brave, and bold” (“Force”).  The definition of force expanded in the mid-fourteenth century to mean “power to convince the mind” and “power exerted against will or consent.”  The Physics term force was created in the 1660s (“Force”). Combined, the “workforce” is the total amount of people in a country or region that are employed or seeking employment” (TheOECD).  Quite literally, the term refers to the “force of workers available” (“Workforce”).  “Workforce” has been actively used since the 1960s (“Workforce”).

The term “workforce” can be used in a sentence in a variety of ways.   The term can be used on its own, either when talking about representation in the “workforce” or to clarify the total amount of people or demographic in an organization’s “workforce.”  “Workforce” can also be incorporated into phrases. For example, the concept of “workforce development” is an economic development strategy that focuses on people, rather than businesses (Fournier).  A region, state, or country benefits from building a skilled workforce that stimulates economic growth through competition. As explained by contingent worker consultant and writer Julia Fournier, enhancing the workforce can be attained by providing career pathways and making skill-learning attainable (Fournier).  Fournier continues to explain that funds must be allocated effectively towards workforce training and education (Fournier). Additionally, discerning the fluid, constantly-changing nature of work and its ability to influence the economy is paramount for strengthening the workforce (Fournier).

Workforce development encompasses place-based development and sector-based development.  The nonprofit Social Solutions clarifies that place-based workforce development programs identify employment barriers and needs in a community or area and create programs to address them.  Place-based development can holistically target issues in a community such as substance-abuse, lack of mental-health services, or inadequate legal support (Social Solutions). The place-based approach involves the supply-side of businesses, while the sector-based approach involves the demand side by focusing on industries that attract new employees (Social Solutions).  Sector-based workforce development attempts to craft a strong talent pool for an industry (Social Solutions). Thus, striving to hire all members of a community is less of a priority. This tactic targets workers who are potential candidates for a specific industry. As a result, sector-based workforce development is most successful in communities or countries with high literacy and educational levels (Social Solutions).  Alternatively, place-based workforce development addresses foundational needs for a workforce.

In regards to representation in the workplace, women are marginalized.  According to McKinsey and Company, corporate America has made little to no progress in increasing women’s representation since their first study in 2015.  In fact, at current rates of hiring and promotion, the number of women in management will only rise by one percent in the next decade (Krivkovich et al.). Women of color, specifically, are the least represented group (Krivkovich et al.). Such underrepresentation is due to factors such as everyday discrimination and sexual harassment (Krivkovich et al.).  Nirmal Puwar explains in her book, Space Invaders, that although women and racialized minorities can formally enter the workforce, “not being the somatic norm, they still do not have an undisputed right to occupy this space” (Puwar 8). The fight for gender equality can not further without breaking down such norms that prevent women and minorities from professionally advancing.  Puwar continues to explain the concept of intersectionality in regards to the workforce. The script of gender and the script of power dynamics in the workplace are not independent (Puwar 79). Rather, there are linkages between gender and positions of power that systematically make it difficult for women, and specifically women that belong to other minority groups, to advance in the workforce.  In a 2018 McKinsey and Company study, two-thirds of women experienced microaggressions in their workplace (Krivkovich et al.).  Such microaggressions include the need for more evidence of competence than men or being mistaken for a junior position (Krivkovich et al.).  Moreover, black women are more more likely than other women to be questioned in regards to their perceived adequacy as an employee (Krivkovich et al.).  Specifically, Krivkovich et al. assert that, “microaggressions are directed at people with less power, such as women, people of color, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people.”  Thus, the workforce must continued to be analyzed in order to strategize ways to promote inclusivity and target misrepresentation due to systematic discrimination.

Works Cited

“Labour Force Participation Rate” TheOECD, Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. https://data.oecd.org/emp/labour-force-participation-rate.htm

“Force.” Online Etymology Dictionary, Douglas Harper. Web. 12 Feb. 2019.  https://www.etymonline.com/word/force

Fournier, Julia. “Why Workforce Management Is More Important than You Think.” HCMWorks, HCMWorks Insights, 28 Oct. 2015. https://www.hcmworks.com/blog/why-workforce-management-is-more-important-than-you-think

Krivkovich, Alexis, et al. “Women in the Workplace 2018.” McKinsey , McKinsey & Company, 2019. https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/gender-equality/women-in-the-workplace-2018

“Place-Based vs. Sector-Based Workforce Development.” Social Solutions, Social Solutions, 18 Aug. 2016.  https://www.socialsolutions.com/blog/place-based-vs-sector-based-workforce-development/

Puwar, Nirmal. Space Invaders: Race, Gender and Bodies Out of Place. Oxford: Berg, 2004. Print.

“Work.” Online Etymology Dictionary, Douglas Harper. Web. 12 Feb. 2019.  https://www.etymonline.com/word/work

“Workforce.”  Def. 1. Vocabulary.com. Vocabulary.com.  Web. 12 Feb. 2019. https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/workforce

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