An analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data by the women's policy institute bears some of that theory out. Professional and business services have become the big employer of men in the recovery, with job gains three times as great as women's gains in those sectors. Another sector with large gains for men has been transportation and warehousing. And women are still losing manufacturing jobs.
Hartmann and others said women have clearly been hurt more during the recovery by budget tightening at state and local governments, which have lagged behind the private sector in instituting layoffs. Some 300,000 local government jobs were cut across the country in the past two years, and more than 60 percent of local government employees are women.
The statistics come as no surprise to Kate Furek, a 23-year-old Halethorpe resident who has been unemployed since losing a job at a technology company in June. While out of work, she is attending graduate school at University of Baltimore part time, has volunteered on political campaigns and is relying on her husband's salary to pay the mortgage and student loans.
"The hardest part is that the fields I personally am interested in or the fields where I'm seeking employment are simply not hiring," Furek said. "They may have created X number of jobs, but I haven't seen them."
And when jobs do open up, competition remains fierce.
"You really have to be the exact perfect candidate to even get an interview," said Furek, who wants to work for a nonprofit or government on issues facing minorities or underserved populations. "I've been looking for the right opportunity, but it's gone way past looking for the right opportunity. It's looking for any opportunity. The jobs are just not there."
Linda L. Possehl of Elkridge, an office manager and former administrative assistant at a construction company with more than 15 years' experience, has been out of work since the end of 2009. Yet she considers herself one of the lucky ones. Unlike many unemployed workers she meets, she has been called to interviews.
"I get just so close," she said last week, taking a break from job hunting at the state's Workforce Development Center in Columbia. "This is the longest ever I've been unemployed. I feel like I'm going around in circles right now, but hoping something will open up."
She's managed to pay her mortgage and other bills by paring down expenses, and she's keeping up her spirits by seeking out free activities and events. Knowing that her once-valued typing and dictation skills are outdated, she has sharpened her computer skills and stressed her bookkeeping experience to prospective employers.
"You have to have a goal," she said. "Your goal is to find a position."
For Vicki Hardin, getting a job in a down economy meant changing careers altogether. The former corporate travel agent from White Marsh was laid off in July 2009 and went back to school to train as a medical receptionist. Her unemployment benefits ran out in January, and she began dipping into retirement savings.
Still having no luck finding work, she began volunteering in the emergency room at Franklin Square Hospital Center. She found she thrived on the fast pace and offered to stay after her 3-to-7 shift ended. After two days, she was offered a job. It starts next month.
"I'm very excited," she said last week. "It's only part-time for now … but I can work myself up."