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Women Still Unequal After All These Years

Despite some inroads women still do not have an equal playing field

professional-referencesIt’s common knowledge that most women make less money than men. Unfortunately, this sometimes happens even when they are working in the same profession. Sadly, it also appears that despite an increased integration of “male” and “female” occupations in 1970’s and 1980’s, women’s progress stalled in the mid 1990’s, according to a briefing paper by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

There has been some progress over the last few decades. For example, in 1972 only 4 percent of lawyers were women, compared to 32.2 percent in 2009. Still while women have made some strides into C-level positions, only 25 percent or less of CEO’s are women. And some fields have remained virtually the same: 97.6 percent of nurses were female in 1972 compared to 92 percent in 2009.

Somewhat surprisingly, although the number of female computer programmers increased to more than one-third of programmers in the 1980’s, the number has decreased consistently since 1989. The result? The percent of women in this profession is only slightly higher now than it was back in 1972 (20.3 percent today compared to 19.9 percent then).

Following are a few other findings from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research Briefing Paper (September 2010):

  • On average full-time employed women earn less than their male counterparts in 104 of 108 professions for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides earnings data.
  • Female-dominated professions pay less than typical “male” professions. For example a nurse would likely make less than a computer software engineer.
  • Women often don’t pursue male-dominated professions because they are unaware of their work options. Sometimes, they are actively discouraged or harassed when they try to move into these fields.
  • Younger women – aged 25 to 34 – are not more likely to work in integrated occupations, those with a mix of men and women, than older women – aged 35 to 44.
  • In mixed occupations, where the percentage of women is between 25.1 percent and 74.9 percent, the average median weekly earnings are lower than in male-dominated occupations.
  • The largest discrepancy in income between “male” occupations and “female” occupations is seen in highly-skilled workers, those with at least a four-year degree.

In spite of the advances toward equality in the workplace women made in the 1970’s and 1980’s, the findings discussed in this paper indicate that progress stalled toward the end of the millennium. Today, women still earn less than men in most occupations. People working in male-dominated professions earn more money overall. And relatively few women occupy the corner office.

So what’s a woman to do? Find out about the earning power of different occupations. Talk to people, particularly other women, who work in a profession you’re considering to find out about the opportunity for advancement. Before you go in for an interview look at the company’s website to see how many senior executives are women. When you go in for a job interview pay attention to who’s sitting in the offices compared with who’s sitting in cubes.

Remember, the more you know, the easier it will be to make an informed career decision.

For more information visit the Institute For Women’s Policy Research 

About Annette Richmond, MA

Annette Richmond, MA, CARW, CCELW, is a Certified Resume Writer, Certified LinkedIn Profile Writer, and former recruiter. Her career advice has been featured by Huffington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Business Insider, Monster, Vault, and WSJ. She helps motivated, senior level professionals tell their unique career story. She also serves as executive editor of career-intelligence.com.


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