The Status of
Women are disproportionately represented in clerical and secretary work, known as "female professions," as well as in the contingent workforce which is a pool of non-regular employees who earn low pay, get no benefits, and have little chance for advancement. According to 1999 statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, Women's Bureau, women still make up more than 90 percent of child-care workers, bank tellers, nurses, and private household workers. Women are concentrated in low paying jobs within the labor force and they continue to do traditional and unpaid work in the home. The work that men do tends to be valued over that done by women. White men, in particular, dominate the labor force. Race combines with gender to affect work related discrimination (Leonard, 56-58)
On average, American women make between 53 and 74 cents for every dollar that a white man makes. Hispanic women earn 53 cents. Black women earn 63 cents. And, white women earn 74 cents (Leonard, 54). This wage gap, indicative of the secondary economic standing of women, even tends to occur when women and men work in the same occupation. In addition, the combination of a high percentage of American marriages ending in divorce, the common awarding of child custody to mothers, and the unreliability of child support payments has caused many women to find themselves solely responsible for raising children on their earnings. The economic inequality of women is exacerbated by the American tendency to divorce and the value that we place on mothering (Leonard, 58).
Women have made tremendous gains in the past century in terms of education. In the United States, women's education is on par with that of men. However, the same amount of education tends to yield more rewards for men than it does for women. According to Eileen Leonard's research in Women, Technology and the Myth of Progress:
Educated young women are increasingly joining many professions. Women now represent more than forty percent of both law school and medical school graduates - up from less than ten percent representation in 1970. But aside from these notable increases, educated women have failed to join many professions. While the majority of elementary school teachers are women, as of 1996 less then twenty percent of full college professors were women (Leonard, 60 and 70). Most notably, women have failed to attain the most prestigious leadership positions in industry. In 1995, only seven percent of the seats on American corporate boards were held by women (Leonard, 60).
NOTE: For further information on the status of women, including a discussion of the connection between women's economic standing and health concerns, look to Chapter Four of Eileen Leonard's book, Women, Technology, and the Myth of Progress (2003). The full citation for this text is available in the References and Further Reading section of this site.