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In Mrs. Burrows’ seventh grade English class, I wrote a paper entitled Women vs. Men in the Work Force. I researched for weeks and weeks to get all of the information I could on pay differences, percentages of working women and what jobs they were doing.
In 1988, my paper focused on sexual discrimination and the wage difference. For example, in 1998, “women received 63% of the pay men received for the same job.” I remember finding that out and asking my dad why that was happening. My father, parent of two daughters who instructed them never to be dependent on a man, did not have a good explanation for this inequality.
Sexual discrimination was just starting to be a hot topic in 1988. Here is my favorite quote from my paper:
“Sixty-two percent of working women who are employed full-time believe that discrimination prevents them from getting top jobs in business and government. Sexual discrimination seems to occur the most. For example, one female executive on her way to the top told of how she fought back. She and some of her male colleagues were in a business meeting when they started to kid her about her short skirts. In reaction to their joking, she put a shapely leg up onto the table and asked her challenger whether or not he saw anything wrong with it. This unusual comeback won her points from her adversaries. Women who have reached top corporate positions have said that getting used to such joking is one of the hardest problems to overcome in an executive job.”
Joking is one of the hardest problems to overcome in an executive job? It seems so trivial compared to issues such as the slowly shrinking wage gap, new family-friendly company benefits, and the ever popular catch phrase the “glass-ceiling”.
I have found that the three P’s are main issues for today’s working woman trying to have it all. The three P’s are Pay, Position and Parenting.
Despite the fact that the Equal Pay Act was signed more than 35 years ago, full-time working women between the ages of 25 and 35 earn only 84% of the weekly earnings of men their age. Alexis Herman, Secretary of the US Department of Labor, has the following to say: “This generation of women has invested greatly in education, returned quickly to the labor force after child birth, held more full time jobs and sought more nontraditional jobs than any in our nation’s history. Their mere presence in the labor force has transformed our work culture, spurred new industries, and infused the nation’s labor force with a ready supply of educated and skilled workers. It is difficult to imagine our nation’s economy without them.”
Indeed, working women have come a long way since 1963 when the wage gap stood at 59%. In 1997, the ratio was down to 26%. The expansion of the female labor force in the 1960’s and 1970’s largely reflected the entry of married women into the labor force, especially those with children. In 1960, only a quarter of married women with children worked or was looking for work. By 1975, 44% of married mothers were in the labor force. The numbers of women graduating form college and graduate school grew as well. In 1960, 35% of all bachelors and first professional degrees were awarded to women. By 1975, 45% of all bachelors’ degrees went to women. Women’s’ rising level of education and experience in the labor market, and their growing share of better-paying managerial and professional jobs have been critical in increasing women’s real earnings during the 1980’s and maintaining their level during the 1990’s. Yet, even with these good-paying jobs, women’s average earnings have not reached those of men. 1997 Bureau of Labor Statistics has weekly wage data showing that women earned less than men in 99% of all occupations for which data is available.
I have had first hand experience with this wage gap. Recently, our small electrical contracting firm (about 15 office employees and 120 field employees) hired the president’s brother, Jim, to perform purchasing and accounts payable tasks. He had worked in the warehouse of one of our large oil clients and was being downsized. He is mid-thirties with no college
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Sexism, Employment compensation, Feminist economics, Employment discrimination, Parenting, Women in the workforce, Equal pay for equal work, Glass ceiling, Housewife, Parental leave, Motherhood penalty, Occupational inequality
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