Index of "Intl. Organizations and Conferences" ||
Electronic Research Collections Index ||
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
August 1994 US Report to UN on Status of Women 1985-1994
GLOBAL CONFERENCE SECRETARIAT
[Section 4 of 5]
Education is second only in importance to sex equity laws in promoting
lasting equality of women in U.S. society. Education is key to
economic, political, and social equality for girls and women.
According to U.S. law, "education is fundamental to the development of
individual citizens and the progress of the Nation...public
responsibility for education is reserved respectively to the States and
the local school systems." Elementary and secondary school education is
provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and
without tuition charge, and cannot be denied because of race, creed,
color, national origin, or sex.
The Federal Department of Education, through its Office of Civil Rights,
plays a strong role in assuring that the rights of women and girls are
upheld. Together with state and local school boards, parents and
teachers, colleges, universities, academic and voluntary associations
and non-governmental organizations, they address education issues that
have had -- and continue to have -- a profound impact upon the status of
women and their families.
Progress toward ensuring equal education opportunity for women and girls
has been centered on achieving the following objectives through
Department of Education programs:
-- equal access to education, athletics, career preparation and
employment opportunities in all fields;
-- elimination of stereotyping of women;
-- eradication of illiteracy and achievement of lower dropout rates
-- elimination of discrimination against women;
-- elimination of gender bias;
-- recognition and resolution of cultural and institutional
-- equitable distribution of scholarship and financial benefits
between females and males of all ages, including athletics;
-- increased placement in non-traditional fields (including math and
science professions) through counseling and incentives;
-- retraining educational and industrial personnel to counteract
gender stereotyping and biases;
-- development of statistical concepts, indicators, and methods of
measuring educational progress and inequities among women; and
-- increased recognition of need to resolve issues fundamental to the
advancement of women as caretakers of children, economic providers for
the family, and informed decision makers.
WHERE WE WERE BEFORE 1985 AND WHERE WE ARE NOW
In the last several decades, women have been narrowing the education
gap. In 1970, about 53% of all U.S. women completed high school; in
1990, 75% received a high school diploma. It was among African American
women that the proportion with at least 12 years of schooling increased
most dramatically between 1970 and 1991. Women have been more likely to
attend school part-time while working or raising families or both.
The percentage of American women age 25 and over who have completed a
high school education increased substantially between 1970 and 1990,
particularly among African American women. As of 1991, about two in
five American women age 25 and over were high school graduates who had
not gone on to college. Another 18.9% -- nearly one in five -- had
finished at least four years of college. However, the trend with
respect to college enrollment by African Americans is not encouraging
and the lack of secondary education is a problem among foreign-born
Degrees -- At the postsecondary level, women have made notable gains
earning over half of all bachelor's degrees -- 53% in 1990, up from 43%
in 1970. In 1970, 8% of U.S. women completed college; in 1990, 18%
graduated. Women outnumbered men among the recipients of postsecondary
degrees in 1989/90 at every level except the doctoral level.
Whether U.S.-born or not, U.S. women of Asian descent are more likely
than other U.S. women aged 25-54 to have had four or more years of
college. Lower education levels are found among foreign-born women of
Hispanic origin. As of 1989, over 40% of those aged 25-54 had no more
than eight years of schooling. Of all women students in institutions of
higher learning in 1990, one-third were at least 30 years old ¾- double
the comparable proportion in 1970.
Between 1976 and 1990, non-Hispanic whites continued to predominate
heavily among college students of both sexes, although their proportion
declined a few percentage points as the Hispanic and Asian/Pacific
Islander proportions increased. The trends with respect to African
American and American Indian enrollment were not encouraging.
College enrollment of women now exceeds that of men, but women still
choose subjects of study different from those of men and less likely to
lead to higher paying jobs. However, women are entering male-dominated
fields of study in ever-increasing numbers. For example, in 1970, less
than 1% of all bachelor's degrees in engineering went to women, but by
1980, 14% of all such degrees were awarded to women. Women's share of
science and math degrees has grown and their numbers among the graduates
of dental, medical, and law schools have continued to increase.
"Today, more than ever before, women can make career choices based on
their interests and aptitudes. I hope that increasing numbers of women
will turn to science and engineering..." Mildred Dresselhaus Institute
Professor of Electrical Engineering and Physics, Massachusetts Institute
of Technology and Chair of the National Academy of Sciences' Committee
on Women in Science and Engineering
In 1970, relatively few women majored in business and only 9% of
business degrees went to women. Between 1959/60 and 1989/90, women's
share of all bachelor's degrees awarded in biology doubled, and their
share of business degrees sextupled. By 1990, almost as many women as
men were business majors and fully 47% of all business degrees went to
Fields such as fine arts and foreign languages continue to be female
dominated -- an English major graduating from college in 1989/90 was
more likely to be a woman than had been the case 30 years earlier.
However, fewer degrees were awarded in these fields in 1990 than in
More women are enrolled in college particularly in their twenties and
thirties -- since 1980, college enrollment of all women 15 to 39 years
old has neared that for men. Recent statistics show that women receive
the majority of financial assistance available for education. In 1989,
women were 55.4% of the undergraduate student population in the U.S. and
59.7% of students who received aid.
Women have increased their representation as college athletes since the
early 1970s. In 1972 women were only 15.6% of college athletes. As of
1993, women are 34.8% of college athletes.
In high school also, girls have made great strides. In 1972, girls were
only 7% of interscholastic athletes. By 1992, girls were 37%.
However, despite the passage of a federal law, Title IX, prohibiting sex
discrimination in education, the Feminist Majority Foundation, in a
forthcoming report on women and sports, reports that virtually all
coeducational high schools and colleges still do discriminate against
women in athletics. Women have fewer sports from which to choose than
men, and in college, a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
study by the gender equity task force found that although the numbers of
women and men on campus were roughly equal, men received 70% of
scholarship money, 77% of operating budgets, and 83% of recruiting
money. No national data are currently available on expenditures for
girls' and boys' athletics in high school.
DEGREES AWARDED TO WOMEN 1959/60-1989/90 (as a percentage of all
undergraduate degrees awarded)
Field 1969/70 1979/80 1989/90
Biological sciences 27.8 42.1 50.7
Business 8.7 33.7 46.7
Computer/information sciences 13.6 30.2 30.1
Education 75.0 73.8 78.1
Engineering 0.8 9.3 13.8
English 66.9 66.1 67.9
Health professions 77.1 82.2 84.3
Mathematics 37.4 42.3 46.5
Physical sciences 13.6 23.7 31.2
Psychology 43.3 63.3 71.5
Social sciences 36.8 43.6 44.2
Visual and performing arts 59.7 63.2 61.4
Source: U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education
Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics 1992, 1992, Tables 263, 265,
266, 267, 269, 272, 273, 275, 276, 278, 280, and 282.
FEDERAL ACTION -- LEGISLATION
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is the principal federal
law which prohibits sex discrimination in education. It protects
students, faculty and staff. It applies institution-wide to all
educational institutions and systems of education which receive any
federal financial assistance. Title IX's broad coverage is guaranteed
by the Civil Rights Restoration Act passed by Congress in March 1988.
Title IX assures that federal funds do not subsidize sex discrimination
in education -- if a covered institution discriminates on the basis of
gender, it may loose its federal funding. Title IX offers a valuable
enforcement tool -- individuals may seek to secure their rights either
through an administrative complaint with the federal government agency
which has funded the institution or by filing a private lawsuit.
There are certain exceptions to Title IX coverage -- it does not apply
to admissions practices in elementary or secondary schools or to private
undergraduate institutions. This was not to condone such
discrimination, but rather reflected Congress' view that it had
insufficient information to formulate a policy for the elementary and
secondary levels. Title IX does prohibit discrimination in admissions
to institutions of: vocational education, professional education, and
graduate higher education.
The implementing regulations spell out prohibited practices Covered
institutions may not:
-- prefer applicants of one sex by ranking applicants separately by
-- apply numerical limitations upon the number or proportion of
persons of either sex who may be admitted,
-- use tests which have a disproportionately adverse impact on the
basis of sex,
-- treat male and female applicants differently based on their actual
or potential parental, family or marital status, or make preadmission
inquiries as to the marital status of an applicant including whether
such applicant is Miss or Mrs.
-- discriminate on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, termination of
pregnancy or recovery therefrom, or disabilities related to these
Gender-based employment discrimination is a significant problem in
education where women continue to be seriously under-represented in the
higher-status and higher-paying categories. In 1986-87 women were 70%
of classroom teachers but only 24% and 4% of school principals and
superintendents respectively. In 1987-88, male professors earned an
average of $48,060 compared to females' $42,380. Women are scarcer at
higher tenure ranks -- only 12% of full professors, 25% of associate
professors, and 38% of assistant professors are female.
In 1983, the Department of Education entered into an agreement with the
EEOC regarding the coordination of administrative employment
discrimination complaints. Individual Title IX employment complaints
are first forwarded to the EEOC for processing. Complaints that allege
a pattern and practice of discrimination against more than one employee
or discrimination against both students and staff are pursued under the
Department of Education.
In athletics the Feminist Majority Foundation reports that women do not
fare as well as men either as coaches or athletic administrators.
Coaches of women's teams are still paid less than coaches of men's
teams. Out of 14 sports that have men's and women's teams, the Division
I men's head and assistant coaches' combined average base salaries were
more than the women's in all sports --sometimes a lot more. In
basketball, men's head coaches were paid an average of $71,511, but the
women's coaches made only $39,177. Even in female-dominated sports like
gymnastics, the men's coaches were paid more on average. And because
most schools offer more sports for men than women, the average combined
spending for men's coaches salaries was $625,396 for Division I schools,
but only $227,871 for women's team.
Moreover, as the salaries of coaches of women's teams increased with
Title IX, male coaches began to displace female coaches. In 1972, the
year Title IX was signed into law, over 90% of women's teams were
coached by women. Now, almost half of women's college teams are coached
by men, but only 1% of men's teams are coached by women. The record is
not much better at secondary schools. As of 1990, over 40% of girls'
teams are coached by men, but only 2% of boys' teams are coached by
women. Seventy-five percent of all high school teams were coached by
Women are also poorly represented in administrative positions within
sport, Less than 17% of college women's athletic programs are headed by
women, and women fill only 29% of all administrative jobs in women's
programs. In high school, less than 20% of athletic directors are
women, and less than 40% of directors of physical education are women.
Sexual harassment is a problem at all educational levels. Studies at
various universities confirm that it is widespread -- as many as one out
of four surveyed female students say they have been sexually harassed by
a male teacher. A Harvard University study found 32% of tenured female
faculty had experienced pressure for sexual favors by a superior and 49%
of non-tenured women faculty experienced some form of harassment.
Under Title IX, an institution may be held liable for the sexual
harassment of students by faculty, administrators, or other employees.
It may also be liable for offending behavior of employee toward
employee, or of students toward teachers or other students.
Institutions may not require males and females to meet different
eligibility standards in order to qualify for financial aid, including
athletic scholarships. Neither may they treat married or single men
differently from similarly situated women or treat pregnant women
differently from men in terms of eligibility for financial assistance.
CURRENT CHALLENGES AND STRATEGIES
The Women's Educational Equity Act (WEEA) was established in 1974, but
funding declined throughout the 1980's. A proposed Gender Equity in
Education Act (GEEA), a package of nine bills addressing gender bias in
elementary and secondary schools, would create an Office of Women's
Equity in the Department of Education. Under GEEA -- schools could use
federal funds to implement professional development programs providing
teachers with effective strategies for gender-fair, culturally-sensitive
teaching, and more federal dropout prevention program monies would go
toward efforts to assist pregnant and female parenting teens to complete
high school (one-fourth of all dropouts are related to
Department of Education Policy
In 1993, the Secretary of Education established the Education Equity
Task Force to ensure that equity is an integral part of all Departmental
programs and management practices and decisions.
Goals 2000: Educate America Act. PL 103-227, signed into law March 31,
1991. - Goals 2000, monitored by the Department of Education,
establishes a national framework for education reform that provides an
equal educational opportunity for all students -- including women and
girls -- to meet high academic standards. Included are certified
voluntary national opportunity-to-learn standards to address the extent
to which schools' curricula and instructional practices are
nondiscriminatory on the basis of gender. States may also use Federal
money to implement State improvement plans that provide special
attention to the needs of female students.
NON-GOVERNMENTAL ACTIONS AND ACHIEVEMENTS -- EDUCATION OF GIRLS
In 1990-91, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) began
promoting an Initiative for Educational Equity with the goal of
challenging parents, teachers, business leaders, public officials, and
opinion-makers to address the issue of how schools help girls grow into
women capable of making the most of their talents and potential.
In the late 1980's, the AAUW Educational Foundation broadened its
mission to include the equitable education of girls. Until that time,
its efforts centered on awarding post-graduate fellowships to women,
under-represented in many areas of higher education. Although equity in
education has been mandated by federal law since 1972, studies continued
to indicate that girls were not receiving the same quality of education
In two reports, How Schools Shortchange Girls (1992) and Hostile
Hallways: The AAUW Survey on Sexual Harassment in America's Schools
(1993), AAUW brought to public light persistent and pervasive patterns
of gender bias and shattered the assumption that girls and boys are
treated equally in public schools in the U.S. Also uncovered in the
course of AAUW research -- sexual harassment is on the rise in
NON-GOVERNMENTAL ACTIONS AND ACHIEVEMENTS -- THE GIRL CHILD - BEYOND
The National Girls Initiative (NGI) was begun in 1991 by the Ms.
Foundation for Women, a multi-issue foundation dedicated to issues
affecting women and girls. The NGI was the Foundation's response to
research showing that girls seem to struggle and suffer more than boys
as they move into adulthood. Major components of the NGI include
Programmed Neglect:Not Seen, Not Heard, a national survey and
accompanying report documenting the lack of adequate programming for
girls; Take Our Daughters To Work Day, a high visibility annual event
that focuses attention on the needs and concerns of girls; and Healthy
Girls/Healthy Women, a national roundtable on girls' health.
Programmed Neglect:Not Seen, Not Heard
In 1992, the Ms. Foundation conducted a national survey of 112
programs for girls, 15 women's foundations and several former
practitioners. Program areas covered included teen pregnancy,
education, career options, child abuse, child sexual abuse, substance
abuse, residential services, and gang related programs. The survey
revealed that less than 8% of all programs provide services to girls
between the ages of 9 and 15. As a result, in 1993, the Foundation
published Programmed Neglect:Not Seen, Not Heard. This report shows the
alarming lack of programming aimed specifically at girls and the
problems they face living in a violent and sexist world. Programmed
Neglect outlines the characteristics of programs that work for girls and
highlights some of the few programs that are helping girls grapple with
the complexities of their lives.
Take Our Daughters To Work Day (TODTWD)
In 1993, the Ms. Foundation held its first annual Take Our
Daughters To Work Day. The event has mobilized parents, educators,
employers, and other caring adults to take action to redress the
inequities in girls' lives and focus national attention on the needs,
concerns, hopes, and dreams of girls. Millions of girls participated in
1993 and 1994, flooding workplaces in rural and urban sites, coast to
coast, as well as internationally in England, Scotland, Canada, and New
Zealand. According to a recent Roper-Starch Poll, about twenty-five
million Americans participated in Take Our Daughters To Work Day in
1994, and one hundred and twenty-five million have heard about it. As a
public education effort, the project makes girls visible, valued and
heard for more than this one day a year.
Healthy Girls/Healthy Women (HG/HW)
In March 1994, funded by the Ortho Pharmaceutical Company, the Ms.
Foundation convened over thirty pre-eminent researchers and
practitioners from the fields of medicine, psychology, developmental
psychopathology, education, and girls' programming to discuss what was
known and what was needed to be known in order to keep girls healthy
from childhood through the transition into adult womanhood. The focus
of this researchers' roundtable was and continues to be understanding
how girls stay healthy during the transition into adulthood. A report
of their findings will be published shortly.
The Association for Women in Science (AWIS), a non-profit association
founded twenty-three years ago, is dedicated to increasing the
educational and employment opportunities for both girls and women in all
fields of science. More than 60 percent of the 5,000 AWIS members hold
doctorates in their fields, spanning the life sciences, physical
sciences, mathematics, social sciences, and engineering.
-- AWIS and its 63 chapters have recently completed a three-year
$400,000 mentoring program with support from the Alfred P. Sloan
Foundation. The program, which included one-on-one mentoring, small
group discussion meetings, large workshops with prominent speakers,
laboratory experience, and exposure to scientific conferences, was
designed to encourage and retain undergraduate and graduate women in the
sciences. A detailed final publication called Mentoring Means Future
Scientists, which presents and analyzes the results of this mentoring
program, was published last year.
-- AWIS has published a number of resources, including A Hand Up:
Women Mentoring Women in Science. A Hand Up contains advice and
reflections from accomplished women scientists designed to dispel many
of the myths about mentoring and to encourage scientists to become
mentors to young women seeking advice and guidance.
-- In addition, AWIS organized a national conference, "Women in Science
and Engineering Leadership: Taking the Initiative," with support from
the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA) held in Washington, D.C. May 12-14, 1994. Mid-
career women scientists and engineers were invited to participate in a
program that focused on the development of leadership skills as a
crucial aspect to achieve the full integration of women into the
sciences. The conference's program concentrated on creating a
leadership culture in science and engineering by generating visions for
change, developing clear strategies and directions for women, as well as
motivating and inspiring fellow female scientists and engineers.
FEDERAL ACTION -- SPECIAL PROGRAMS
The U.S. Department of Education finances and supports a number of
programs with special emphasis on improving the status of women and
girls. The Office of Vocational and Adult Education has two programs
designed to help eliminate sex bias: P.L. 101-392, the Carl D. Perkins
Act, funds the Sex Equity Program and the programs for Single Parents,
Displaced Homemakers and Single Pregnant Women. The Perkins Act
requires each State to earmark a specific percentage of the State's
Federal vocational education funds for each of these programs.
The Single Parents, Displaced Homemakers and Single Pregnant Women
Program funds may be used to subsidize, reimburse, or pay for
preparatory services; to provide dependent care, transportation,
supplies, books and materials, career counseling and other related
services; or to inform members of these groups about vocational
education programs and related support services.
The Sex Equity Program provides services for women aged 14 through 25,
and is designed to enable them to support themselves and their families.
It provides support services including dependent care and
transportation, comprehensive career guidance and counseling, and funds
activities to eliminate sex bias and stereotyping in secondary and post-
secondary vocational education. The aim is to increase career and
employment opportunities for young women by ensuring equal access to
nontraditional vocational education and training programs.
Recent data indicate that the rate of female participation (age 18
through 34) in vocational education programs is slightly higher than
male participation. About 5% of males were enrolled in October 1990
compared to a 6% rate for females. Concomitantly, employment rates for
teenage women were lower than males'. Female vocational education
students were more likely not to be in the work force. About 31% of
females compared to 18% of male vocational students (age 18 through 34)
were unemployed during the October 1990 period.
In 1990/91, as in 1980/81, most of the men on the faculties of four-year
colleges and universities had tenure and most of their female
counterparts did not.
In an important case for academic women, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court
in University of Pennsylvania v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
held that the EEOC has the power to subpoena confidential tenure review
files from a university accused of discriminating in denying tenure to a
professor. In previous litigation, courts had been hesitant to delve
into the motives of well-educated and prestigious faculty members on
behalf of discrimination litigants and had agreed that academic freedom
protected personnel decisions within universities.
FEDERAL ACTION -- LITERACY PROGRAMS
The U.S. pledged (with other nations represented at the 1990 WORLD
CONFERENCE ON EDUCATION FOR ALL) to reduce the illiteracy rate to one-
half of the 1990 level by the year 2000 with sufficient emphasis on
female illiteracy. This pledge is confirmed as one of the Six National
An ongoing effort to combat illiteracy among persons of all ages (with
particular emphasis upon those with limited English proficiency is
supported by the U.S. Congress, the general public, industry, and
nonprofit and non-governmental organizations. The National Institute
for Literacy was established under the National Literacy Act of 1991, to
serve as a focal point to coordinate literacy efforts at the federal,
state and local levels.
ADVANCEMENT SINCE 1985
In 1988, the U.S. Congress called on the Department of Education to
support a national literacy survey of America's adults. The National
Adult Literacy Survey, released in September 1993, is the first effort
to provide accurate and detailed information on this skill in the adult
population as a whole. This important instrument explores literacy in
the work force, literacy and education linkage; literacy among older
adults, literacy in the prison population, literacy and cultural
diversity, and literacy practices.
Adult Education Programs have been a vital resource for educationally
disadvantaged women and young adult females. While not targeted to
women, 1984-91 enrollment was 52% female to 48% male.
HOW ARE WE DOING?
Two literacy programs -- the Workplace Literacy Program and the Family
Literacy Program -- could potentially have a significant effect on the
advancement of women and girls. The Department of Education is
optimistic that with increased participation in these programs an
important obstacle to long-term employment opportunities will be
removed. These programs may play a crucial role in reducing the drop-
out rates of young women and reducing the unemployment rates of both
women and girls.
The Workplace Literacy Program, which combines employment training with
literacy instruction, offers an opportunity for working men and women to
develop academic and occupational skills needed in the workplace. It
provides basic skills training that is required by employers. This
includes reading and writing skills and job-specific training to advance
productivity at a national level. This program is implemented through
partnerships among business, industry, labor organizations and
Women's participation in the labor force continues to increase. The
majority of adult women are at work or looking for work. The proportion
of women 16 years old and over in the labor force increased from 50% in
1980 to 57% in 1990. In 1990, the number of women with full time year
round jobs was 32.5 million. The labor force participation rate of
women aged 55 to 64 has risen from 27 percent in 1950 to 47.3 percent in
1993, according to the American Association of Retired Persons.
The increased employment of women is a central issue in the
consideration of the economic status of women in our society. Despite
the fact that there has been no discernible reduction in household and
family responsibilities, women have joined the U.S. labor force in
The distribution of both women and men across occupations has changed,
sometimes dramatically, since 1970. Despite some evidence of non-
traditional employment or some workers such as female carpenters,
plumbers, and masons, and male nurses, the overall labor market remains
sharply segregated by sex. Even though women have made progress in
entering occupations predominately held by men in the past, especially
managerial and professional specialty occupations, the majority of women
are still in traditional "female" occupations.
Women continue to be over represented in clerical (administrative
support) and service occupations and under represented in production,
craft, repair, and laborer occupations.
For over 30 years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the
Department of Labor has collected and disseminated employment statistics
on women on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis. Such data are
published by age, race, and marital and family status (presence and age
of children). Earnings data for women are also published by occupation,
industry, hours of work, and other variables. Geographic detail on
women's employment status is also published.
In addition to data based on the monthly labor force survey, BLS has
recently begun to analyze and publish findings from the National
Longitudinal Survey. These data show how women's labor force and
employment status changes with age, and appropriate attention is paid to
the child-bearing years. Gender-specific data published by BLS are used
by various groups and government agencies such as the Women's Bureau to
make decisions and promote programs and policies for the advancement of
Involuntary/Voluntary, Part-time, Temporary, Consultant, Homework, Self-
employed Work Arrangements -- No established definition or reliable
estimate of contingent workers exists to date. Only two categories --
temporary workers and involuntary part-timers (2% and 5.4% of total
employment, respectively ) have significantly grown since 1979.
Temporary workers tend to be disproportionately women, young, African
American, less educated, and poor. Two thirds of all part-time workers
and 60% of all temporary workers are women, with employers moving
towards making such part-time work shifts a permanent feature of the
Most displaced homemakers, i.e. women re-entering the paid workforce
after divorce, widowhood or child-rearing, do so into part-time jobs;
and 40% of employed single mothers work less than full-time/full-year
jobs. Women also disproportionately work in industries such as cleaning
and food service that increasingly use sub-contracting and "independent
Part-time employees earn 38% less per hour than full-time employees;
temporary employees earn 20% less than permanent. Nearly 75% of part-
time, full-year employees do not receive health insurance benefits
through their employers; 90% of part-time, part-year employees do not
receive employer-paid health insurance coverage. However, part time
work is important to older women, according to the American Association
of Retired Persons, which points out that women over age 65 have access
to Medicare health insurance.
A significant and growing number of women, among them middle-to-low
income women, are working in their homes for wages. The U.S.Department
of Transportation reports that approximately 2 million workers
telecommute to work, i.e. work in their homes for an employer by
computer and modem; the Department of Labor indicates that 20 million
workers in the U.S. did at least some work at home in 1991, compared
with 18.1 million in 1985. Although some women homeworkers are
professionals, most type, assemble electronics parts, enter data into
computers, process insurance claims, assemble parts, and do piece work
for the garment industry. There is some insecurity among these
homeworkers since they are often misclassified as independent
contractors who, unlike employees, do not receive benefits, raises, wage
equity, and job security.
The Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor hosted an historic forum
on labor law reform in October 1993, responding to the need for women
workers' concerns to be placed at the heart of the agenda of the
Commission on the Future of Labor-Management Relations. In May 1994,
the Commission released a fact-finding report covering the rise of
contingent work and the resultant lack of job security and other
benefits for working women. Legislative recommendations by the
Commission are due by the end of 1994.
In April 1994, a coalition of 23 non-governmental women's organizations
testified before the Commission on the Future of Worker-Management
Relations about this growing phenomenon among women workers -- "calling
the phenomenon the emergence of a second class work force."
Speaking for the coalition, Judith Lichtman, president of the Women's
Legal Defense Fund, said the coalition found that contrary to popular
assumptions empirical evidence does not show that the majority of women
voluntarily choose certain forms of contingent employment, such as part
time work, to accommodate family caretaking responsibilities. In fact,
in 1989, women were 44% more likely than men to work part time
The coalition called on employers and employees to fashion voluntary
part-time and other flexible scheduling arrangements. Noting that
people who choose such arrangements do not choose to forego fair pay,
decent benefits and labor protection, the coalition urged that such
contingent work relationships not be used to keep women at the bottom of
the pay scale without benefits, status or security. The coalition
further advised businesses searching for ways to enhance productivity to
invest in their workers, by providing adequate wages and benefits,
skills training, promotion, and family-friendly policies on a non-
The Commission was urged to promote labor law reform in pay equity, to
protect women labor organizers from sexual harassment, to examine the
contingent workforce who are not part of companies' core employees, and
to ensure that these workers have access to collective bargaining
DoL is reviewing the laws and regulations it enforces and the programs
it administers to determine whether contingent workers of all types are
adequately served. Issues under examination include:
-- whether contingent workers are included in the definition of
employee/employer relationships for each of the laws, regulations and
programs under its jurisdiction -- especially as those definitions are
used to determine a worker's rights or benefits;
-- enforcement of existing laws so that exclusion of contingent workers
can be prevented;
-- programs and services enabling workers to access core jobs (as
opposed to contingent jobs) that offer job security, adequate benefits
and labor law protection.
NON-GOVERNMENTAL ACTION AND ACHIEVEMENTS
As reported in U.S. News and World Report (July 4, 1994), AT&T has
established a pilot program that will employ about 100 workers in 1994.
These workers will float from job to job but they will be permanent
employees and thus receive the benefits of full-time workers. The
program is in part a response to the Communications Workers of America's
(CWA) discoveries that between 1990 and 1993 AT&T was violating its
contract by employing temporary workers for more than 90 days.
Increasingly, grassroots women organizers, mainstream feminists, and
economists are arriving at a common conclusion -- women's unpaid work in
the home, on the land and in the community counts, i.e. has economic
value, and must be counted.
For the past 20 years, there has been an organized, international effort
by such related grassroots groups as the International Wages for
Housework Campaign, its national, regional and ethnic affiliates, and
Housewives in Dialogue, to have women's unwaged work recognized and
counted internationally and nationally. Although other non-governmental
organizations have also been active in similar efforts, the Wages for
Housework network led the effort at the UN Conference on Women in
Nairobi where they lobbied vigorously and successfully for it to be
included in the UN platform of action.
The Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies call for the unremunerated
contributions of women to all aspects and sectors of development -- to
be recognized, measured and reflected in national accounts and economic
statistics and in the gross national product.
ADVANCEMENT SINCE 1985
A loose network of organizations and individuals called the Women Count
Network have manifested support for having unwaged work at least
counted, if not paid. In large part due to their efforts, in 1991,
Congresswoman Barbara-Rose Collins proposed the Unremunerated Work Act.
This bill would require the Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine a
dollar value for unpaid services like housework, caring for children or
the elderly, agricultural work, volunteer work and work in a family
business so that the amount could be added to the Gross National
Product. (The effort would count the unpaid work of men as well.)
Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has agreed with the legislation in
principle but has cautioned that "policy and technical issues require
further research and study before legislation of this kind is enacted,
and before much needed personnel, money, and other resources are
devoted to this activity."
CURRENT CHALLENGES AND STRATEGIES
To some extent the measuring of unpaid work has begun -- sporadically
and incrementally. Divorce settlements often place a value on a wife's
unpaid contribution to her husband's career; volunteer work is
considered as relevant experience for paid jobs; efforts for legislative
reform acknowledge the work that women do as primary care providers in
the home for children, elderly and sick family members. Recently, the
U.S. Census Bureau, in the North Central States, a large farming region,
counted as paid the unpaid work of farm wives who work 15 hours a week
or more at farming, counting it as a contribution to the owner's
business. (It should be noted that persons who perform unpaid work of
15 hours or more a week in a family business have been included in
estimates of employment in the U.S. labor force survey since the
Some economists urge further research that analyzes household activities
and differentiates between leisure and work, and that takes account of
household labor. They claim that, among other things, it would help
explain fluctuation in U.S. economic activity since World War II, and
that it would serve as a practical indicator of consumer purchases and
There is a growing sense that counting women's work is more than a good
will gesture towards women's self-esteem, but a pragmatic step towards
gaining a realistic picture of the economy and the workforce needed to
A Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank Report argues that benefits will
outweigh costs of the analysis and all that is required is "a home
production function that transforms home labor and capital into home
output, just as the standard market production function transforms
market labor and capital into market output. The household and
business sectors simply need to be treated symmetrically."
Nevertheless, there is no consensus in the economic community about
numerous conceptual and methodological issues regarding the measurement
and valuation of unpaid work. One of the first unresolved issues is
deciding exactly what should be measured. Any attempt at surveying
unwaged work would have to develop a methodology for distinguishing
productive and personal activities. One difficulty in this regard is
that what is considered productive may depend on social norms that
change over time.
Beyond the difficulties of defining the productive activities that
should be measured are the problems arising from trying to gauge the
amount of time devoted to such activities. For example, people may
typically perform several of the activities at the same time. A way to
estimate the monetary value of the time spent on these activities would
have to be developed. Various approaches for doing so have been
suggested, each with certain advantages and limitations. Much
additional research will be needed to arrive at a consensus on the best
approach to all these issues.
Finally, after the conceptual and methodological questions are answered,
it needs to be acknowledged that substantial budgetary resources would
have to be devoted to designing, testing, and implementing a data
collection instrument. While the measurement of unpaid work clearly is
an important topic, it is equally clear that difficult decisions have to
be made before such measures can be produced.
WHERE WE WERE IN 1985
Equal employment opportunity for U.S. women is required by the Equal Pay
Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The
Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 amended Title VII to make clear
that discrimination because of pregnancy or childbirth is prohibited.*
As amended, Title VII provides broad protection against employment
discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, or national origin.
Under Title VII, it is unlawful to discriminate on the basis of sex in
any aspect of employment: recruitment, hiring, promoting, firing, job
assignment, pay, training, fringe benefits, or any other term or
condition. State and local laws also protect women against sex
discrimination in employment; in some cases protection of these laws may
be more extensive than federal law.
* In 1987, the Supreme Court held - in California Savings and Loan v.
Gierra - that under Title VII, employers cannot provide fewer benefits
for a pregnant women, than for others temporarily disabled, but states
may require additional leave for pregnancy without violating the federal
Title VII remedies were designed to make the victim "whole" -- put her
in the place she would have been but for the discrimination, and to
deter employers from discrimination. Traditional remedies have included
requirements for hiring, reinstatement, promotion, back pay, attorney
fees and court orders to eliminate discriminatory practices. Under the
"make whole" theory, damages were not originally available under Title
VII. However, damages in an amount equal to back pay have been
available under the Equal Pay Act since 1963.
ADVANCEMENT SINCE THEN
During the last decade women workers have narrowed the range of work
place behavior they will accept without taking action. Some file
grievances with their unions alleging employment discrimination; some go
to court; some form employee groups to offer support and to brainstorm
about common problems; some confide experiences of discrimination,
including sexual harassment, to other women workers; some report to
members of the media their own experience and that of other women,
sometimes withholding permission to publish their names; others, after
filing complaints and waiting in frustration for just resolution,
relinquish their personal privacy in order to make public their
discrimination complaints. In recent years, the legal system has been
effectively challenged to make good its promises of even-handed, speedy
resolution of gender-based employment discrimination. For example, the
U.S. Supreme Court has held that gender specific fetal protection
policies, which do not reflect a bona fide occupational qualification,
are unlawful. The nature of sex discrimination as defined by the courts
and the legislatures continues to evolve over time.
The comprehensive Civil Rights Act of 1991 increased women's and
minorities' protection against job discrimination, overturning several
Supreme Court decisions rendered from 1988-91 that had weakened
employees' rights, made discrimination difficult to prove and altered
the balance between employers and employees by restoring the burden of
proof to the employer.
The 1991 Act added significant financial penalties and authorized jury
trials in cases of intentional discrimination. An employer who
intentionally discriminates now may be liable for compensatory and
punitive damages up to US$300,000 per claimant. Compensatory damages
may be awarded for actual monetary losses, including medical treatment
costs, and for nonmonetary losses such as emotional pain and suffering.
Punitive damages can be awarded where an employer has acted with malice
or reckless disregard of the law. These financial remedies are
particularly important for certain types of sex discrimination -- such
as sexual harassment -- where the usual Title VII remedies such as back
pay or reinstatement may not provide real relief for the intangible harm
suffered, or be a sufficient deterrent for employers to eliminate such
practices. An employer also may be required to set remedial goals for
women where they traditionally have been excluded or are under-
represented in jobs.
These Civil Rights laws are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC). Because sex discrimination sometimes takes forms
that are different from other discrimination, the EEOC has issued sex
discrimination guidelines. The guidelines provide a narrow
interpretation of what constitutes a bona fide occupational
qualification. For example, the guidelines state that the refusal to
hire an individual cannot be based on assumed employment characteristics
of women and that preferences of customers or existing employees may not
be the basis for refusing to hire an individual. The guidelines declare
that it is an unlawful employment practice to classify a job as male or
female; maintain separate lines of progression or seniority systems; or
advertise for workers under male and female job class.
The guidelines say that State laws which prohibit or limit the
employment of women in certain occupations (in jobs requiring the
lifting or carrying of weights over certain prescribed limits, or for
work during certain hours of the night, for more than a specified number
of hours per day or per week, and for certain periods of time before and
after childbirth) discriminate on the basis of sex because such laws do
not take into account the capacities, preferences, and abilities of
individual women. Thus, these laws conflict with and are superseded by
Title VII. This position has been upheld in a series of court cases;
the conflict between Federal and State laws on this point was largely
resolved in the early 1970's.
For the period October 1, 1993 through June 30, 1994, terminations were
the single largest category of sex discrimination complaints filed with
the EEOC (under Title VII). Terminations, like other employment
decisions, must be made without discrimination on the basis of sex,
race, religion, and national origin.
Fairness and issues of notice of inadequate work performance with
opportunity to respond and to correct the problem have only recently
formed a basis for legal challenge for employees who are not covered by
collective bargaining agreements. Up to about 30 years ago, the legal
relationship between employers and employees was governed almost
completely by the doctrine of "employment-at-will," which meant that in
the U.S. an employer could fire an employee "for good cause, for no
cause, or even for cause morally wrong, without being thereby guilty of
legal wrong." With the expansion of exceptions to the employment-at-
will doctrine in many States today, employees cannot be discharged
without just cause as readily as in the past.
The EEOC guidelines also declare that it is an unlawful employment
practice for an employer to discriminate between men and women with
regard to fringe benefits (such as medical, hospital, accident, life
insurance, and retirement benefits; profit-sharing and bonus plans; and
leave) and other terms, conditions and privileges of employment. For
example, it is unlawful for an employer to have a pension or retirement
plan that specifies different benefits on the basis of sex. The U.S.
Supreme Court has upheld this guideline in a case involving a city
agency that required female employees to make larger contributions to
its pension fund than were made by male employees, City of Los Angeles
v. Manhart. The city agency had based its practice on mortality tables
and on its experience that female employees had greater longevity than
male employees, resulting in a greater pension cost for the average
female retiree than for the average male retiree.
Subsequently, the Court ruled in Arizona Governing Committee v. Norris
that employers cannot provide lower monthly retirement benefits for
women than for men.
In 1990, the Supreme Court provided another important legal protection
against pregnancy discrimination. During the 1980's many employers
established policies excluding pregnant women or all women of a
childbearing age from jobs that might endanger the health of a
developing fetus. Frequently these were good, highpaying jobs. The
Court ruled, in United Auto Workers v. Johnson Controls, that fetal
protection policies are facially discriminatory and are not justified as
a "bona fide occupational qualification." The Court reasoned that
concerns about fetal safety do not relate to female employees' ability
to perform the job and therefore cannot provide a lawful basis for
excluding fertile women.
The largest damage award settlement to date under Title VII required the
State Farm Insurance Company to pay at least $157 million in a class
action suit. The court found that the employer deliberately did not
hire female agents throughout California. The original plaintiff filed
suit after being denied a job as an agent after 12 years as an agent's
assistant. She was denied employment on the basis that she could not be
protected while on the job at night and that she lacked a college
degree, though more than half of male agents lacked such degree.
The EEOC receives and investigates discrimination complaints and where
it finds that they are justified, tries to resolve them through
conciliation. Where conciliation fails, EEOC may file suit in court or
authorize the complainant to file a private suit. EEOC Commissioners
also may file charges against companies.
EEOC continues to receive rising numbers of sex discrimination
complaints (more than 41,000 in 1992, compared to 31,000 in 1985), and
to litigate many sex discrimination cases (the largest single basis of
EEOC litigation). Among the areas where EEOC enforcement and guidance
activities and court decisions have helped reduce gender-based
employment discrimination are: pregnancy-related discrimination
(including employer "fetal protection" policies), discrimination in
retirement benefits, systemic practices that exclude women from
traditionally gender-segregated jobs, and sexual harassment in the
CURRENT CHALLENGES AND STRATEGIES -- PARTICIPATION IN THE LABOR FORCE
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that in 1992,
women held about 47% of all jobs in the private sector compared to 42.6%
in 1982. Their employment grew at a rate more than three times that of
men. The highest rate was women in professional jobs. While the
percentage of white women in professional jobs increased about 26%, the
increase among African American women was a considerably higher 46%.
Women also increased their representation as officials and managers in
private industry during this decade -- in 1992, they held 30.5% of these
jobs. Yet, in both private and public sectors, women continue to be
concentrated in the lower paying office and clerical jobs -- holding
more than 8 of every 10 such jobs. Women also hold more than half of
the generally low paid sales and service jobs.
FEDERAL ACTION -- LEGISLATION
In 1990, the Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW) Act was enacted
to broaden the range of job training and placements for women. The
legislation encourages the training and placement of women in
nontraditional areas of job growth characterized by potentially high
earnings. Nontraditional is defined as any "occupation or field of work
where women comprise less than 25 percent" of the employment. Among
other provisions, the Act calls for statewide coordination between the
Job Training Partnership Act and other resources available for training
women for nontraditional jobs. The Women's Bureau administers the four-
year demonstration program that makes grants to states to develop
demonstration and exemplary programs to train and place women in
In 1992, the Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations Act
was signed into law, establishing support for community-based
organizations to guide employers and labor unions. Congress
appropriated funds for this act into the fiscal year 1994 DoL budget.
The Women's Bureau and the Bureau of Apprenticeship Training co-
administer this Act. The first awards under this program are planned
for September 1994 to promote opportunities for women in apprenticeship
and nontraditional occupations.
Women in the Garment Industry
The Women's Bureau is supporting research on women in the U.S. garment
industry, including immigrant women, through research grants and
sponsorship of a conference, "Women in the Changing U.S. Apparel
Industry," where research results were presented, in March 1994. The
research and conference address the effects of restructuring in the
industry, the history and present circumstances of women workers,
immigrant labor and sweatshops, high technology and its effect on
women's labor, the future for women garment workers, and policy
WAGES AND BENEFITS
WHERE WE WERE IN 1985
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), administered by the Department of
Labor provides important labor standards protection for women and men in
virtually all occupations. Enacted in 1938, the FLSA, is the law of
most general application to workers in the U.S. The law requires that
all covered and nonexempt employees must be paid a minimum wage
(currently $4.25 an hour) and not less than one and one-half times their
regular rates of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a work-week. It
also prohibits oppressive child labor by requiring the Secretary of
Labor to regulate the employment of children. It is estimated that more
than half of the U.S. workforce subject to the FLSA minimum wage and
overtime provisions are women.
ADVANCEMENTS SINCE THEN
The decade of the 1980's was marked by a decline of nearly ten percent
in the wage difference between men and women. In 1982 women working
full-time year-round earned 62 percent of what men did, while in 1992
women earned 70.6 percent of what men did. While a substantial
increase, women's wages are still significantly lower than men's wages.
Over the past decade women's need for higher earnings has grown as their
role in supporting their families has expanded. The proportion of two-
income families with children has increased from 36 percent of all
families with children in 1975 to 47 percent of all such families in
1993, while the proportion of single female earner families with
children has risen to 18 percent of all families with children (Hartman
and Spalter-Roth, 1994:7). With men's real wages falling throughout the
1980's, any real income gains made by low and middle income families
came from women's earnings (U.S. Congress, Joint Economic Committee,
1992: Families on a Treadmill: Work and Income in the 1980s. A staff
study. Washington, D.C. January 17. Mishel, Lawrence and Frankel, David.
1991 The State of Working America).
Still, many of the women covered by the FLSA are urban poor women
working in jobs at or near the minimum wage. Low wage occupations
covered by FLSA include domestic, food service, janitorial and retail
occupations. In certain metropolitan areas, large numbers of urban poor
women work in the nation's garment industry both in factories (sometimes
characterized as sweat shops) and in the home. Minimum wage, overtime,
and home work violations continue to persist in the garment industry.
Since 1985, there have been new enforcement initiatives and legislation
providing significant opportunities to improve the status of urban poor
women, immigrant women, young women, and women with physical and mental
disabilities in the U.S. In 1992 and again in 1993, the Department of
Labor conducted special enforcement initiatives to promote compliance
with the FLSA and to reduce the exploitation of these low-wage workers.
In 1986, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published
its final regulations interpreting the Equal Pay Act (EPA). In 1981,
the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Title VII's prohibition on sex-based
wage discrimination is not restricted to claims for equal pay for "equal
work" (County of Washington v. Gunther). In 1985, the U.S. Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission, in its first decision on comparable
worth, held that sole reliance on a comparison of the intrinsic value of
dissimilar jobs, which command different wages in the market does not
prove a violation of Title VII. In the decision, the EEOC stated that
claims of sex-based wage discrimination may be proven by evidence of (1)
the discriminatory application of a wage policy or system or the
discriminatory use of wage-setting techniques such as job evaluations or
market surveys, (2) barriers to equal access to jobs, or (3) the
preponderance of direct or circumstantial evidence that wages are
intentionally depressed because of the sex of the occupants of the job.
Fringe benefits are part of the employer's payment for work performed
and are thus covered by the EPA. The 1986 EEOC regulations provide that
fringe benefits including medical, hospital, accident, life insurance,
and retirement benefits; profit sharing and bonus plans; and leave, may
not be administered in a discriminatory manner between men and women
performing substantially equal work. EEOC warns that if an employer
bases benefits available to employees and their spouses and families on
whether the employee is the head of the household or principal wage
earner in the family unit, the overall implementation of the plan will
be closely scrutinized. An employer may not defend differential benefit
plans by arguing that it costs more to provide benefits to one sex than
to the other.
Under the section covering inequalities in pay that raise questions
under the act, EEOC has indicated that because the EPA was designed to
eliminate wage rate differentials based on sex, situations will be
carefully scrutinized in which employees of one sex are concentrated in
the lower levels of the wage scale, and where there does not appear to
be any material relationship other than sex between the lower wage rates
paid to such employees and the higher rates paid to employees of the
CURRENT CHALLENGES AND STRATEGIES
The wage gap between male and female workers has narrowed little over
the past three decades. In 1963, women earned 59.6 cents to a man's
dollar. In 1992, women on average were paid 71 cents for each dollar
paid to men. According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research,
only half of this reduction in the wage gap was the result of an
increase in women's real wages; the other half reflected a decline in
men's salaries. The wage gap is even greater for women of color. For
example, in 1992, African American women earned 63.9 cents to a man's
dollar; Hispanic women earned 55.3 cents. (Blau, Francine, and Lawrence
Kahn. 1992. Working Paper No. 4224. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of
More than two dozen States have conducted studies to determine the role
of gender in wage-setting practices in the public sector. Over twenty
States have adjusted pay to correct sex or race bias. Some private
sector employers have examined their wage-setting and job evaluation
systems to remove any existing bias. According to the Institute for
Women's Policy Research 1994 report on twenty state governments' pay
equity programs, Pay Equity Remedies in State Governments: Assessing
Their Economic Effects, nearly all the states found a pay gap between
comparable female- and male- dominated jobs. Further, the study found
that if all female workers in the U.S. received the average pay equity
adjustment observed in this study, each would earn an additional $1,400
annually, and the national female/male wage ratio in 1990 would have
improved from 71 to 76 percent.
Advocates for equal pay urge a multifaceted strategy. Access by women
to equal educational opportunities continues to impact on women's pay.
Vigorous and innovative enforcement of equal employment opportunity laws
at the Federal level, along with the Civil Rights Act of 1991's
provisions for compensatory and punitive damages and the right to a jury
trial, will make discrimination more expensive to employers. Revising
job classification systems to eliminate bias related to gender, race and
national origin will reduce the undervaluing of "women's" jobs.
Introduced in 1994, the Fair Pay Act is a Federal bill seeking to expand
the protection of the Equal Pay Act to cover work of "equivalent" value.
The major provision of this legislation, which applies to both public
and private employers, would prohibit sex, race, and national origin
wage discrimination among employees for work in "equivalent jobs."
Equivalent jobs are those whose composite skills, effort, working
conditions, and responsibility are equivalent in value, even if the jobs
are dissimilar. The Act would extend the Equal Pay Act, which has been
limited to sex-based discrimination in the same or substantially equal
jobs. Moreover, the Act requires that wage, salary and demographic data
for each classification, position, or job title be submitted to the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and be publicly available.
In addition to requiring that workers be compensated on a consistent
basis for their skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions,
action must be taken to remove bias from job evaluation systems used to
measure these attributes. A standard of gender neutrality in job
evaluation is necessary to make visible and compensate the attributes of
work performed by women and people of color in order to further close
the wage gap.
For enforcement purposes, the Fair Pay Act would allow class action
lawsuits as a remedy for this form of discrimination. It also would
fill the information gap for workers by insuring employers disclose
general job classification and pay statistics. Additionally, employers
would be required to provide the sex, race and national origin
composition of the relevant categories of employees.
FEDERAL ACTION -- RESEARCH
The Department of Labor study, Women's Relative Pay: The Factors That
Shape Current and Future Trends analyzed the factors contributing to the
increase in women's relative earnings in the 1980's, and identified and
analyzed the skill requirements of well-paid, high-growth occupations
A number of factors contributed to the rise in women's pay in the
1980's, including: (1) a decline in labor market discrimination against
women; (2) a rise in the relative quality of female labor; (3) a
convergence in the industrial distribution of male and female workers;
and (4) decline in male wages.
High-wage, high-growth job opportunities for women are concentrated
in the managerial, professional, and technical fields. The five areas
of work expected to provide the most opportunities through the year 2000
are: health, computers, engineering, teaching, and general management.
The skills required for jobs in these fields are considerably higher
than the skills required for the average job in today's economy. Women
aged 35 to 41 who currently hold these jobs have significantly more
education and more wage-enhancing education than do other working women
in this age group.
Women in high-wage, high-growth occupations have: (1) spent more
years in the labor force; (2) are more likely to work full-time; and (3)
are more likely to be single and without children than other women.
Over 85% of the female work force between the ages of 35 and 41
have worked intermittently since leaving school. These women earn 50%
less than the small minority of women in this age group who have worked
About 60% of the pay differential between intermittent and
continuous women workers is due to difference in measured
characteristics, such as the amount of education, work experience, and
number of children. Women who work continuously have 16 years of
education and 16 years of work experience on average. Intermittent
workers have only 13 years of education and 12 years of work experience
on average. Half the women who work continuously do not have children:
only 12% of other women in the 35-41 age group are childless.
Women who work continuously earn significantly more than those who
work intermittently even after controlling for the measured
characteristics. This suggests that differences in unmeasured
characteristics explain part of the pay disparity. Since most men work
continuously and most women work intermittently, this also suggests that
part of the sex pay disparity is due to differences in unmeasured
characteristics as well.
The study points out that because the decline in labor market
discrimination against women is expected to continue, along with a rise
in the relative quality of female labor and a convergence in the
industrial distribution of male and female workers, the prospects for
further improvements in women's relative pay are good.
Despite this and other similar, optimistic findings, no study yet has
accounted for all of the earnings difference between women and men.
Some researchers attribute this unexplained difference to
FEDERAL ACTION -- FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE LEGISLATION
As women's participation in the work force has increased, conflicts
between employment and family responsibilities involving the illness or
physical incapacity of family members have also become more prevalent.
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 provides protection for
employees who need time off to recover from childbirth or to care for a
newborn, other children, or immediate family members. Private sector
employers of 50 or more employees and public agencies must provide up to
12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave with maintenance of group health
benefits for: the birth or adoption of a child; acquiring a foster
child; the serious illness of a child, spouse, or parent; and, the
serious illness of the employee. The Act however, does not require
employers to pay employees during their leave.
Many State laws guarantee some form of leave for some of these purposes,
most without pay or with combinations of paid and unpaid leave. In an
effort to help employees manage these obligations in an orderly,
responsible way, some States require employers to provide leave for the
time when an employee is incapacitated for employment because of
pregnancy or childbirth; some provide leave for extended periods to care
for a newborn or newly adopted child by either a mother or a father; and
others include leave for the employee to care for an ill child, spouse,
parent, or legal dependent as well as to care for one's own illness.
NON-GOVERNMENTAL ACTIONS AND ACHIEVEMENTS - WORK AND FAMILY
The National Study of the Changing Workforce (Families and Work
Institute, 1993) found that the major predictors of workers' ability to
balance work and family life were the quality of the working environment
including workload, autonomy on the job, and relationships at work. It
also found that how supervisors handle day-to-day work-family issues is
as much a part of being family friendly as offering specific programs
and policies. The researchers concluded that the study findings "argue
for expanding the issues that were typically considered in the work
place improvement efforts to include the question of how these
initiatives will affect family or personal life. They also argue for
broadening the definition of work-family efforts from dependent care to
include the ways jobs are structured and designed."
In an article on the Status of Women in the United States by Joan
Walters Drake, Facts on File, The United States, Volume 2, 1992 reports:
"While 7.7 million working women with children under age 15 arrange
some sort of day-care --in or outside their own home, with relatives or
others, or in a formal day-care setting-- estimates vary widely of the
number of American children left to fend for themselves during their
mothers' working hours. The "latchkey" children who were self-
supervised were estimated to number approximately 7 million in 1982 by
the Children's Defense Fund. This figure was challenged, however, by
other sources tho claimed that many of this number were cared for by
relatives, perhaps by a father or sibling, and therefore were not
reported in day-care statistics. The U.S. Bureau of the Census reported
that one-half million children between the ages of 5 and 14 were self-
supervised and had no adult care during their mothers' work hours, based
on data collected between December 1984 and March 1985. However,
testimony offered to the U.S. Senate Children's Caucus Policy Forum to
Examine Problems Confronting "Latchkey Children" in June 1983 estimated
a high of 15 million children providing some or all of their own care
during the mother's work day. Although there is a burgeoning movement
in private industry to meet the current needs of the working mother,
whose absenteeism and resignation rates are observably reduced when
adequate child care is available, by 1985 only 2,500 or about 5% of the
44,000 companies employing more than 100 workers offered some form of
employee assistance. These include on-site centers; some subsidizing of
the costs of care regardless of the site; or perhaps maintenance of a
referral system to local day-care providers. It is clear that half of
the nation's children are dependent for supervision and nurturing upon
persons other than their mothers, for at least a portion of their day."
FEDERAL ACTION -- RESEARCH: CHILD CARE AND JOB TRAINING SUCCESS
A five year study (1982-87) sponsored by the Women's Bureau and the
Rockefeller Foundation demonstrated that job training success for low-
income, single mothers was greatly dependent on the supply,
affordability and quality of child care.
Employer-Supported Child Care -- In an effort to better understand the
relationship between employer-supported child care and worker
productivity, the Department of Labor's Employment and Training
Administration commissioned a study Employer-Supported Child Care:
Measuring and Understanding Its Impact on the Workplace to determine
what is known about the productivity effects of employer-supported child
care; what role cost-benefit considerations play in employer decision-
making about child care; and whether there are sound, practical
evaluation designs that could be used by employers to assess the value
of their child care programs. Looking at seven organizations, they
found two employers supported child care centers for their employees,
two supported programs for mildly sick children, two offered partial
reimbursement for child care expenses, and one was considering whether
to offer some form of child care benefit. The study also attempted to
clarify the definitions of various evaluation measures related to the
benefits of employer-supported child care. Three major problems
associated with establishing a link between child care benefits and
productivity gains were identified: defining and measuring productivity;
determining the relationship between the child care benefits and other
detected outcomes; and determining whether the effects of a child care
program were worth the cost to the employer.
The report notes that much of the evidence of productivity gains from
employer-supported child care was subjective and based on workers' or
managers' survey responses. It provides recommendations to employers
interested in deciding on or refining child care benefits. They include
the need to:
o Undertake a careful needs assessment and planning process;
o Carefully identify the most relevant outcomes;
o Recognize the effects of other benefits and policies;
o Consider data needs in advance;
o Select appropriate comparison groups; and
o Consider the feasibility of and appropriate measures for determining
The report concludes by noting that, given the extent to which family
responsibilities have been found to conflict with work responsibilities,
it is reasonable to think that well-designed programs aimed at assisting
the family would have a positive effect on work performance. And
indeed, a number of employers who believe in the value of child care
programs have begun to establish them. If this number grows
substantially, child care programs may come to be thought of (along with
health insurance and vacation time) as part of the standard package of
benefits offered by employers interested in attracting and retaining
As part of the same project, a guidebook was prepared and published to
help employers and managers reach decisions about whether child care
programs are appropriate for their organizations and, if so, which types
make the most sense. Among other things, the guidebook outlines how to
estimate the costs involved in various forms of child care benefit
programs, and discusses how to estimate the savings related to
reductions in employee turnover and absenteeism, including savings which
may arise in the areas of recruitment and public relations. It presents
several major strategies for evaluating child care benefits and
discusses the major advantages and limitations of each strategy.
A Comparison of Three Types of Child Care Arrangements -- This study
reviewed three types of employer-supported child care arrangements in
the State of Wisconsin: on-site child care centers, flexible spending
accounts (FSA's) for child care, and employer resource and referral
services. The project involved 36 companies (manufacturers, employers
of office/clerical workers, and health care institutions). The firms,
averaging 1,222 employees, provided information about their work force,
child care benefits, and benefit users.
According to the project's final report Wisconsin's Response to Families
and Work, the percentages of employees that used each benefit option
varied depending on the type of benefit offered. Higher percentages of
employees used the child care center and the FSA options than used the
resource and referral option.
Improved morale of program users was reported. Companies with child
care centers also reported the following benefits: positive influence on
recruitment (79%), reduced absenteeism (64%), reduced tardiness (43%),
reduced job turnover (79%), improved morale of all employees (57%), and
ability of employees to accept promotion (50%).
Profiles of benefit users were developed from the project data. Most
child care center users were in the middle and high ranges for gross
family income. Before center enrollment, 58-61% of the parents had no
previous child care arrangements outside of spouse or siblings, and 30-
35% of the parents had used baby-sitters or family day care. More of
the employees used the center for part-time than for full-time care.
To assess the impact of child care on women in the labor force, the
Women's Bureau funded a study, Child Care Costs as a Barrier to Women's
Employment, which analyzed the impact of child care costs, quality, and
availability on demand for commercial and noncommercial child care, and
the effects of this demand on the labor market behavior of married
Findings covered in the report show that:
-- The demand for commercial child care services increases with income
and decreases as costs for services rise.
-- Married women's labor force participation increases with the quality
of nonmaternal care and decreases as other family income increases.
-- The demand for noncommercial services increases as the costs of
commercial child care go up and decreases with higher incomes and better
quality commercial child care up to a certain cost boundary.
-- Commercial child care costs have stronger negative effects on
employment and commercial care use and, conversely, stronger positive
effects on noncommercial care use than previous studies have shown.
-- The availability of noncommercial care providers (other adult
relatives, for example) has a strong impact on the use of such care and
on womens labor supply.
-- Expense-related subsidies (for example, the Child and Dependent Care
Tax Credit) increase the demand for child care and the labor supply of
WHERE WE ARE -- PENSIONS FOR WOMEN RETIREES
In the U.S., income for retired workers has three components -- 1)
individual life-time savings and investments (if any), 2) Social
Security, and 3) earned pensions. The component commonly known as
Social Security consists of a government-administered program designed
to provide a basic level of lifetime income to American workers upon
their retirement from the work place. Workers earn a right to this
retirement income through their participation in the work force during
their working years. The program is financed through a tax on wages
that is paid by both employees and employers.
The income that the Social Security program pays to retirees, however,
falls short of the amount that most would consider necessary to fully
provide for the economic needs of retirees. Even though the eligibility
requirements for Social Security benefits are the same for men and
women, the work histories and wage levels of men and women are so
different that benefit levels vary dramatically by gender. The average
Social Security retirement benefit payable in July 1993, was $738 for
men and $564 for women.
Social Security Equity
In 1992, a Congressional Study Group on Women and Retirement was
established to call national attention to Social Security issues
concerning women, including the payment inadequacies and inequities
discussed above. SSA is expanding its research and statistical programs
to better evaluate the treatment of women under the program and respond
to questions about their economic status.
Many American workers, therefore, find it necessary to rely extensively
on a second source for their retirement income. For approximately 50%
of workers, the second source is an employer-sponsored pension plan.
Because of its critical social and economic role, the effectiveness of
the employer-sponsored pension system has been an important issue to
American workers in general. Increasingly, it is a matter of special
concern to women. Later marriages, high divorce rates and high rates of
labor force participation mean that more of today's women workers will
rely on their own employment history for pension benefits than ever
before. It is therefore important to ensure that the pension system
works for both men and women.
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) sets minimum
standards for pension plans in private industry. The law is enforced by
the Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration (PWBA) of the U.S.
Department of Labor, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Pension
Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
The Retirement Equity Act of 1984, which amended ERISA and related
provisions of the Internal Revenue Code, improved the opportunities for
women to earn their own pensions and share in their husband's pension.
-- required pension plans to permit otherwise eligible employees to
participate in the plan beginning at age 21;
-- required pension plans to credit up to 501 hours of service (but
only for purposes of preventing a break in service) for maternity and
-- required many pension plans to provide a survivor benefit for the
spouse of a worker who dies before he or she reaches retirement age; and
-- enabled state courts to direct that a divorced spouse receive
retirement benefits directly from the ex-spouse's pension plan.
The extent to which women benefit from the employer-sponsored pension
system is determined not only by provisions of law, but by de facto
practices. Of central concern in determining how well the pension
system meets the needs of working men and women is the question of how
many workers are actually covered by pension plans, that is, how many
workers are earning rights to a pension at their present jobs.
Statistical data for the period 1972 to 1993 reveal a flat trend.
Coverage varied between 48 and 50 per cent during all five survey
This aggregated data, however, masks a significant gender-related trend.
Pension coverage for women actually went up significantly during this
period, from 38 to 48%. Coverage among men, in contrast, declined from
54 to 51%.
Older women shared in women's general improvement, but gender
differences in coverage remain highest among older workers. Among
workers age 55 to 59, 57% of women and 60% of men were covered in 1993.
Women's coverage is limited by their work force experiences. Women tend
to earn less than men, change jobs more frequently than men, and are
concentrated in different occupations and industries from men. The
statistical data show that, for the work force as a whole, pension
coverage rates tend to fall as earnings drop. Women's lower earnings,
therefore, may explain much of their lower pension coverage rates.
Significantly, women and men with the same earnings have similar
coverage rates. However Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that 65%
of women earned less than $20,000 in 1992, an earnings range in which
the majority of workers do not have coverage. By contrast, only 45% of
men were in that earnings range.
Although women constitute approximately 40% of the full-time American
work force, their share of employment by industry differs widely. If
the economy is divided into eleven traditional industrial sectors, six
of them (agriculture, heavy manufacturing, wholesale trade,
transportation, construction, and mining) have a predominantly male work
force, three (professional services, personal services, and finance,
insurance and real estate) have a predominantly female work force, and
two (light manufacturing and retail trade) are gender-balanced.
Women fared best in predominantly male industries, where the pension
coverage rate averaged 57%. Interestingly, the second best coverage
rate was for predominantly female industries, where 53% of women were
covered. By contrast, in gender-balanced industries only 37% of women
were covered by pension plans.
Women's occupation is not the primary determinant of whether they are
covered by a pension, as the disparity in pension coverage between men
and women is much less when classified by occupation than by industry.
Women have similar coverage rates in both predominantly male and
predominantly female occupations. It appears that three factors account
for the change in pension coverage rates that have occurred for both men
and women over the past two decades. These are: 1) changes in
demographic characteristics associated with pension coverage, such as
age, job tenure and earnings level; 2) changes in the rate of pension
coverage for industries in which one sex traditionally predominates; and
3) shifts in employment by each sex from industries traditionally
dominated by their sex to industries dominated by the other.
For women, all of these factors contributed to their increase in
coverage rates. Women in the work force are increasingly older, longer-
tenured and higher paid, all factors associated with higher pension
coverage rates. In addition, women are benefitting because pensions are
being offered with increasing frequency in the industries and
occupations in which women predominate, such as banking and insurance.
Finally, women over the past two decades have increased their
representation in industries and occupations that have been
predominantly male. Stated simply, it appears that American women for
the present have been expanding their proportion of pension coverage
faster than pension coverage as a whole is shrinking. In the long run,
however, the more significant trends for women as well as men may be the
shrinkage in the availability of pensions to the population as a whole,
as well as the shift away from defined benefit plans in favor of defined
DETERRING SEXUAL HARASSMENT
In 1992, the Supreme Court decided its second sexual harassment case --
a former high school student filed suit for money damages against her
high school under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. She
alleged that she had been subjected to continual sexual harassment,
including coercive intercourse, by a teacher and that the school
district had refused to process her complaint adequately. The Supreme
Court held that a money damages remedy is available for an action
brought to enforce Title IX, greatly expanding the remedies available
for both students and employees in school systems that receive Federal
financial assistance. In 1993, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in
its third sexual harassment case, Harris v. Forklift Systems, that a
woman need not prove that her psychological well-being was seriously
affected by the harassment only, in order to prevail on a claim under
ADVANCEMENTS SINCE 1985
Under Federal law, sexual harassment is a discriminatory, and therefore
unlawful, employment practice. In 1986 in the first sexual harassment
case to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, Meritor Savings Bank v.
Vinson, the Court ruled unanimously that sex discrimination that creates
a hostile or abusive work environment affecting a term, condition or
privilege of employment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964, as amended. Title VII's Section 703 prohibits the imposition of
an onerous condition of employment upon any individual because of that
The Meritor decision upheld the basic premises and definitions of what
constitutes sexual harassment, as established in 1980 amendments to
EEOC's sex discrimination guidelines. EEOC guidelines define sexual
harassment as "unwelcome sexual behavior" and identify two types: "quid
pro quo" harassment, when an employer or supervisor conditions a job or
benefit on receipt of sexual favors; and "hostile environment"
harassment, where severe and pervasive actions of an employer, co-
worker, client or customer create an intimidating, hostile or offensive
work environment. Since Meritor, judicial perceptions and understanding
of sexual harassment, particularly the hostile work environment type,
have developed rapidly. Furthermore, several events involving sexual
harassment or allegations of it received widescale media attention, and
have raised public awareness significantly. Workplace interactions
between men and women involving power and sexuality have been subjected
to an increasingly deeper level of scrutiny. Women workers and their
attorneys have made progress in altering the way society and legal
decision makers think about these issues.*
* Catherine MacKinnon's legal advocacy and her landmark books, Sexual
Harassment of Working Women: A Case of Sex Discrimination (1979) and
Toward a Feminist Theory of the State (1989), are cited as instrumental
in formulating and litigating these concepts in "Note: Toward an
Expanded Conception of Law Reform: Sexual Harassment Law and the
Reconstruction of Facts," Fechner, Holly B., 23 U. Mich. J.L. Ref. 475
Still, studies continue to find that women and girls experience sexual
harassment in the workplace, in educational institutions, in housing and
in the streets. According to the National Council for Research on
Women, between 50-85% of women experience sexual harassment during their
working lives. A 1989 study by the National Law Journal found that 60%
of the 3,000 women attorneys at the top 250 law firms had been sexually
harassed. A 1981 study by the U.S. Merit Systems Protections Board had
found that 42% of female respondents had experienced sexual harassment.
A 1988 follow-up study by the same federal agency found that sexual
harassment was still prevalent among federal employees.
In her groundbreaking book, Sexual Harassment of Working Women,
Catharine MacKinnon defined sexual harassment as the "unwanted
imposition of sexual requirements in the context of a relationship of
unequal power." She argued that work provides an opportunity for women
to become economically self-sufficient and that sexual harassment
"undercuts woman's potential for social equality."
Judges, attorneys and legislators are currently in the process of using
cases brought by individual plaintiffs to learn more about how sexual
harassment discriminates against women and how to shape effective
remedies. Recently the courts have begun to widen their vantage point
in assessing sexual harassment allegations to include considering the
viewpoint of the "reasonable woman." In Ellison v. Brady, the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit stated: "We adopt the perspective
of the reasonable woman primarily because we believe that a sex-blind
reasonable person standard tends to be male-biased and tends to
systematically ignore the experiences of women." While there is still
controversy about the reasonable woman standard such decisions suggest a
trend toward incorporating the viewpoints and sensibilities of women
workers, especially as shaped by their social inequality, into the legal
analysis of sex discrimination.
EEOC guidelines further define sexual harassment as:
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other
verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual
harassment when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly
or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment, (2)
submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as
the basis for employment decisions affecting such an individual, or (3)
such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with
an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or
offensive working environment.
There were 75 sexual harassment complaints to the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission in 1980; in 1992, there were 10,532. Between
1988 and 1992 sexual harassment claims filed with the EEOC more than
Quid pro quo sexual harassment has been defined as a situation in which
a supervisor demands sexual behavior in exchange for employment
benefits. In order to obtain relief under this theory, a victim must
show a loss of tangible benefit. A tangible economic loss may include
termination, transfer, delay or denial of job benefits, denial of
training, desirable office space, or adverse performance evaluations.
Courts have also recognized that the work atmosphere is included within
Title VII's "terms, conditions or privileges of employment." Thus,
conduct that is sufficiently severe or persuasive to create a hostile
work environment on the basis of sex violates Title VII. And while quid
pro quo harassment can only be committed by someone with authority to
change an employee's job status, employers, supervisors, coworkers,
customers or clients can create the form of sexual harassment known as a
hostile work environment.
A U.S. Court of Appeals found a hostile work environment in a case in
which coworkers called the plaintiff "slut" and "bitch," grabbed her
crotch, and displayed sexually offensive drawings, some of which
included the plaintiff, and no disciplinary action was ever taken.
Hostile work environments were also found in cases in which supervisors
consistently made sexually explicit and demeaning remarks to the
plaintiff. In one case the company had a history of management's
tolerating vulgar language directed toward women employees. In another,
the employer kissed, rubbed up against, trapped, touched, unzipped the
uniform of and exposed himself to the plaintiff.
Plaintiffs may hesitate to pursue a sexual harassment claim if they
anticipate the embarrassment of having their entire sexual histories
revealed in a courtroom during a trial. In one case, the district court
ruled that allowing the employer to use the legal process to discover
intimate details of the complainant's life would militate against
prosecution of sexual harassment cases, is a serious invasion of privacy
and therefore should not be permitted except in extraordinary
circumstances. In that case the employer had sought to discover the
name of each person with whom the plaintiff had sexual relations in the
past 10 years. The Court noted that similar questioning once confronted
rape victims who often found their own moral characters on trial during
the prosecution of their assailants:
By carefully examining our experience with rape prosecutions,
however, the courts and bar can avoid repeating in this new field of
civil sexual harassment suits the same mistakes that are now being
corrected in the rape context...The use of evidence of a complainant's
past sexual behavior is more often harassing and intimidating than
genuinely probative [likely to shed light on facts], and the potential
for prejudice outweighs whatever probative value such evidence may have.
Certainly, then, in the context of civil suits for sexual harassment,
and absent extraordinary circumstances, inquiry into such areas should
not be permitted, either in discovery [pre-trial investigation by the
opposing side] or at trial.
In 1990, the EEOC issued a lengthy Policy Guidance on Current Issues of
Sexual Harassment to provide guidance on defining sexual harassment and
establishing employer liability in light of the developing law after
Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson. The EEOC indicates that the mere
existence of a company policy against harassment will not protect an
employer from a suit, but that an employee's failure to complain through
an effective grievance procedure may divest an employer of liability.
The EEOC agreed that employers should always be held directly
responsible for acts of quid pro quo harassment, but the agency
interpreted case law as requiring a careful evaluation of hostile work
environment claims to determine whether the employer knew or should have
known about the harassing conduct or failed to have an effective
grievance procedure and was therefore liable. The EEOC further
suggested that actual knowledge of sexual harassment by supervisors,
whether acquired by direct observation, the filing of a discrimination
complaint or other means, always implicates the employer, if immediate
and corrective action is not forthcoming, even if an anti-harassment
policy exists and a grievance procedure is available.
A Federal court in Florida found that the plaintiff's testimony of 11
years' work experience as a welder -- during which she was subjected to
continuing visual and verbal sexual assaults through the pervasive
presence of photographs of nude women, with exposed breasts and pubic
areas in sexually submissive postures -- constituted a violation of
Title VII, even though the employer did have a policy against sexual
harassment for part of the time in question. The court found expert
testimony that "when sex comes into the workplace, women are profoundly
affected...in their job performance and in their ability to do their
jobs without being bothered by it" provided an evidentiary basis for
concluding that "a sexualized working environment is abusive to a woman
because of her sex."
The employer can be held legally responsible for co-worker sexual
harassment if the employer knew or should have known, if he or she paid
reasonable attention to the working conditions, of pervasive harassment
and did not respond. Several cases have been instituted by women who
work in traditionally male occupations such as air traffic control,
trucking, law enforcement, car sales and repair, corrections,
construction, firefighting and plumbing, and thus are particularly
vulnerable to harassment by a conspiracy of a group of male coworkers
against the sole or few women employees.
Sexual harassment by non-employees usually involves the conduct of
clients or customers, which is sometimes overtly encouraged by
employers' job requirements that female employees wear revealing
clothing or act in a provocative manner to stimulate business. In one
case, cocktail waitresses were required to project sexual availability
by wearing provocative outfits, flirting and dancing both alone and with
customers in a sexually provocative manner. Waitresses were
subsequently subjected to unwelcome sexual advances and physical and
verbal sexual abuse. EEOC guidelines provide that, as in cases of
harassment by coworkers, the employer may be liable if an employer or
its agents or supervisors knew or should have known of the conduct,
unless immediate and appropriate corrective action was taken.
In 1991, the EEOC stepped up its enforcement of protection against
sexual harassment by issuing a set of model legal pleadings to its
attorneys throughout the U.S. and to women's groups, in an effort to
speed prosecution. The new EEOC directive emphasizes that charges of
serious sexual harassment must be expedited after prompt investigation.
The courts are considering an increasingly wide variety of legal bases
for relief in employment sexual harassment cases.
In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court decided its second sexual harassment
case. A former high school student filed suit for money damages against
her high school under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. She
alleged that she had been subjected to continual sexual harassment,
including coercive intercourse, by a teacher and that the school
district had refused to process her complaint adequately. The Supreme
Court held that a money damages remedy is available for an action
brought to enforce Title IX, greatly expanding the remedies available
for both students and employees in school systems that receive Federal
In 1993, the Supreme Court further clarified the standards for
establishing "hostile environment" harassment in the workplace. In
Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc., the Court reaffirmed its Meritor
ruling that hostile environment harassment is any "conduct that is
sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim's
employment and create an abusive working environment." The Harris
ruling voided requirements of some lower courts that the victim must
prove that she suffered psychological damage. The Court stressed that
all circumstances should be considered in determining whether an
environment is "hostile," and that no single factor is required.
ACCESS TO VOCATIONAL RESOURCES
The Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) funds the principal job and
training activities administered by the Department of Labor Employment
and Training Administration. JTPA authorizes a broad spectrum of
programs and services for economically disadvantaged adults and youth,
dislocated workers, and others who face significant employment barriers.
These programs and services are offered on a nationwide basis, through
local communities, and annually serve approximately 2.2 million persons.
In addition, JTPA authorizes research and evaluation, and special
activities and demonstrations. These additional efforts are often
directed to issues of concern to women.
Percent Distribution of Female Enrollment
In Key JTPA Nationwide Training Programs
(July 1991-June 1992)
Program Total Enrollment %Women
Program for Disadvantaged
Adults and Youth 1,100,000 56
Dislocated Workers 331,000 45
Summer Jobs for 782,000 50
Youth (summer 1992)
Job Corps 101,000 37
Job Corps is a nationwide residential education and training program for
poor youth aged 16 through 24. Enrollees are provided food, housing,
education, vocational training, medical care, counseling, recreation
facilities, and other support services.
Job Corps has undertaken a number of initiatives over the past few years
intended to increase the recruitment and retention of young women into
the program. Advertising and promotional materials targeted to women
have been developed for use throughout the country. Posters and other
promotional materials depicting young women in nontraditional jobs have
also been developed and disseminated to Job Corps centers and screening
agencies to encourage female enrollment in training in areas such as the
In order to foster an atmosphere where female students will feel
comfortable when they are enrolled, funds have been provided to centers
to enhance women's dormitories by making them less institutional and
more home-like. In addition, sexual harassment training is required for
students and staff at Job Corps centers. A parenting curriculum has
been added to the Job Corps academic program, and a newly implemented
social skills training program contains a series for handling conflict,
dealing with anger, arriving on time for work or appointments, dealing
with embarrassment, and similar skills.
Enrollees in Job Corps centers also receive books, supplies, and a cash
living allowance, part of which is paid upon program termination after
satisfactory participation. A number of the centers can accommodate
nonresidential enrollees who participate in training and center
activities during the day. Enrollees may stay in Job Corps for up to
two years, although the average length of stay is about eight months.
They are given help in finding a job or enrolling in further education
when they leave the program.
Some Job Corps centers now have on-site child care programs for students
who have dependent children. Most of the programs serve children of
nonresidential students who live at home and attend Job Corps classes
during the day. Three of the programs, however, are residential, with
parents and their children living in a special dormitory. The children
participate in an on-site child development program while their parents
go to class.
Teen Parent Program -- is aimed at increasing the long-term
employability of young women who have been teenage mothers. The
demonstration, New Chance, was developed and tested by the Manpower
Development Research Corporation in five sites through a joint Federal
government and Ford Foundation funding effort. The national
demonstration project now operates in 16 sites in ten states and is
funded by a consortium of public and private organizations, including
ETA. Components of the demonstration include education, employability
development, parenting, and supportive services to teenage mothers and
child care services for their children.
The New Chance demonstration focuses on the integration of services,
which include: educational development through instruction in basic
academic skills and GED preparation; employability development through
enhancement of career exploration and pre-employment skills; vocational
skills training; work internships and summer work experience; job
placement assistance; personal and social development; and services for
Apprenticeship -- has long been recognized as a particularly effective
means of formal training for many skilled workers, although most in the
skilled trades and crafts acquire their training through informal means.
The Federal role in apprenticeship is largely supportive, providing an
organizational framework to: formulate and promote the furtherance of
labor standards; register programs and apprentices that meet standards;
and deliver promotional services and technical assistance. The private
sector (business and labor) bears the cost of providing the actual
training and is responsible for the design and administration of the
training and the selection of apprentices.
The National Apprenticeship Act of 1937 authorizes the Department of
Labor to promote apprenticeship, which it does through the Bureau of
Apprenticeship and Training (BAT). The BAT works closely with
employers, labor unions, vocational schools, community planning groups,
State Apprenticeship Councils, and others concerned with apprenticeship.
Recognizing that women faced barriers to entering apprenticeship
programs or lacked knowledge of the opportunities available for such
training, the Women's Bureau launched the first cooperative effort with
the BAT in 1968, to encourage women to compete for apprenticeship
openings. Since that time, the Women's Bureau and BAT have undertaken
various special initiatives aimed at increasing the number of women in
Emphasis during the mid-to-late 1970s led to the development of a
package, "Women in Apprenticeship: A Training Workshop." In 1981-82,
this training package was delivered nationwide through Women's Bureau
funded trainers, resulting in increased awareness, community coalitions,
tradeswomen's networks (e.g., Hard Hatted Women in Cleveland), and
programs offering training in the skilled trades.
By 1992, there were 262,704 apprentices in over 41,000 apprenticeship
programs registered with the DOL's Bureau of Apprenticeship Training or
state apprenticeship agencies; 19,917 (7.6 percent) were women and
58,317 (22.2 percent) were minorities. Minority representation in the
apprenticeship program approximates minority participation in the labor
force. For women, progress in increasing participation in
apprenticeship programs slowed considerably in the 1980's. Women's
participation in registered apprenticeships increased from 0.7 percent
in 1973 to 6.6 percent in 1983; by 1990 it was 7.1 percent. The
Department of Labor's goal for women's participation in apprenticeship
in 1978 was a proportion equal to half of their participation in the
work force or approximately 20 percent. Women made up about 45 percent
of the labor force in 1990; their participation in apprenticeship
remains far short of that goal.
The DOL's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is charged with
investigating complaints, reviewing apprenticeship programs during
compliance reviews, negotiating the voluntary resolution of violations
and referring those cases to the Solicitor of the Department of Labor in
which enforcement action may be necessary. OFCCP's objective is to
remove the barriers that prohibit women from entering apprenticeship
programs and from successfully competing for higher paying journey-level
Women in the Skilled Trades (WIST) Initiative of 1990-91 -- combines the
programmatic missions of several agencies within the Department of Labor
(the Employment and Training Administration's Bureau of Apprenticeship
Training, the Women's Bureau, and the Office of Federal Contract
Compliance Programs), to increase the access of women and minorities to
nontraditional jobs. There are over 800 occupations in the U.S. for
which formal apprenticeship training is available. The DOL has engaged
in community outreach and recruitment, apprenticeship enrollment, and
enforcement. The DOL has coordinated efforts with sex equity groups,
community organizations serving the special needs of women and
minorities, employers, and unions. Seminars and workshops have been
held to encourage the education system to provide occupational training
for women that meets the needs of industry. This activity provides
increased exposure throughout the workforce to these opportunities, a
wider cross-section of selection of qualified persons, and greater
diversity in employment placement.
For example, on major public works construction projects which will be
of several years duration, a concerted multi-program effort is made at
the beginning of a project to publicize employment opportunities among
women and minorities, attract trainees, and obtain employment
commitments through which those hired can both learn new skills and gain
experience and competence in nontraditional fields.
As part of WIST's education and outreach activities, the Women's bureau
developed and published an annotated Directory of Nontraditional
Training and Employment Programs Serving Women (1991). The model
programs reflect pre-apprenticeship programs for women.
Specialized apprenticeship activities for women in which DOL's
Employment and Training Administration has been involved include:
-- Preparation Recruitment Employment Program, Inc. provides services
designed to increase access for women and minorities to apprenticeable
occupations, in which they have been traditionally under-represented.
Primary emphasis is upon entry into skilled craft apprenticeships in the
construction industry, and placement of women in nontraditional
occupations. The program operates at three sites.
-- STEP-UP, a pilot program, is a new kind of apprenticeship program
for residents of public housing and Native American housing authorities
and for other low-income persons. It provides participants, who are
overwhelmingly female, with jobs, job training, and career
opportunities, primarily in maintenance and construction at housing
authorities. Participants are paid while in the program. STEP-UP is a
temporary program (one year maximum), the first step in a longer-term
training and employment process, and now operates in about six cities.
Other Training Efforts -- The DOL's Employment and Training
Administration has been involved in other relevant training projects.
Under the Defense Conversion Adjustment program, the agency provided
funds to the State of Arizona to provide training and readjustment
assistance to female veterans and women dislocated from defense
contractors. The project offers participants job clubs, out-placement
assistance, counseling, and related activities. A leadership training
seminar also prepares participants with management experience for
leadership positions in the private sector.
The 1980's witnessed little progress toward increasing the employment
and retention of women in highway construction. In 1991 the Federal
Highway Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation, in
conjunction with the U.S. Department of Labor's Women's Bureau and
Employment and Training Administration, developed a training and
reference manual which State Highway Agencies could use to assist
highway construction contractors in meeting their responsibilities for
the employment of women. The resulting manual represents a multi-agency
response to the problems of recruiting, hiring, training, and retaining
women in the highway construction crafts. This manual is a resource
document which contains a compendium of strategies that have proven
successful for others. It culminated the joint efforts of the above-
noted Federal agencies. Included in the project were factfinding
activities, research, and pilot training sessions for State highway
officials, contractors and compliance officers.
The other effort is the Job Training for the Homeless Demonstration
Program, announced in 1990. The Program provides homeless persons
training and other services, including housing, designed to increase
employment opportunities, improve job retention and attain permanent
housing for homeless persons. Projects serve diverse subgroups of the
homeless population including single women and families with children.
The demonstration, operated at about 20 sites, is designed to provide
direction for future national job training for homeless persons.
WHERE WE ARE
Environmental policies and proposed technical solutions typically do not
take into account the differences in the ways women and men interact
with the environment. Women's susceptibility to environmental toxins
differs from that of men; as a result, women may suffer
disproportionately from environmental pollution.
Traditionally, scientists (including those at the Environmental
Protection Agency -- EPA) have not evaluated the female population
separately regarding environmental risks in their epidemiological or
laboratory studies. Efforts to protect a woman from various
environmental hazards are generally subsumed under the rubric of a 70
kg., 154 lb. man.
As a result of President Clinton's February 1994 Environmental Justice
Executive Order, EPA has begun to assess how environmental problems
converge on communities of color in which the head of household is
typically a female. A low-income community surrounded by multiple
sources of air pollution, waste treatment facilities, and landfills, and
with lead-based paint in the residences, is clearly a community that
faces higher than average environmental risks. More than half of poor
African American children in the U.S., before they enter the first
grade, have levels of lead in their blood that the government defines as
neurotoxic. Children with elevated lead levels show increased
distractibility, disorganization, and hyperactivity.
U.S. programs devoted to energy and environment benefit women worldwide.
The Department of Energy has begun to reapply traditional weapons
technologies and newly developed technologies to the development of
programs that enhance and improve the overall quality of life.
Reapplication of technology to such fields as biomedical research and
quality of life research can serve the global interests of women.
RESEARCH AND RISK ASSESSMENT
Women of child-bearing age are generally targeted for protection as a
sensitive population due to concerns of adverse developmental effects of
chemicals on fetuses, but not because the women themselves are at a
Areas of study which cover women's susceptibility to environmental
toxicants include metabolism, pharmacokinetics, the menstrual cycle,
reproductive physiology, endocrinology, pregnancy, lactation, and the
menopause. Areas of study which cover the exposure of women to
environmental pollution include their occupation, physiological
parameters, physical activities and food intake.
Many chemicals exert adverse health effects that may affect women or
fetuses disproportionately compared to the general population. Many
chemical substances produce adverse reproductive effects as demonstrated
in animal toxicity testing -- indications of adverse reproductive
effects in humans, a health effect that would fall disproportionately on
women. Steps were initiated in the mid-80s to improve how the Agency
evaluates data on reproductive and developmental toxicity. New
Guidelines for Reproductive Toxicity Risk Assessment are scheduled for
EPA approval in the fall of 1994.
Guidelines for assessing risks from developmental toxicity were
published in 1991. The Guidelines for assessing risks to the
reproductive system include special consideration of the female
reproductive system as a target for reproductive toxicity. It was
recognized that existing protocols to detect reproductive toxicity were
quite limited; especially with regard to age at attainment of puberty,
the menstrual cycle and the onset of reproductive senescence. Agents
are studied mainly for the interference with the ability to conceive and
maintain a pregnancy through delivery.
FEDERAL ACTION -- LEGISLATION ON PESTICIDES AND FOOD SAFETY
Federal legislation is not targeted toward women; however, several rules
significantly impact women and children. EPA registers pesticide
products if scientific data adequately show that when used according to
label directions, they will not pose unreasonable risks to human health
or the environment. In addition, for any pesticide use on food or
animal feed crops, EPA is responsible under the Federal Food, Drug and
Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) for setting tolerances (maximum residues in food or
feed). Use of pesticides may disproportionately impact the health and
safety of women in a number of ways. EPA is currently focusing its
research attention on 1) the hormonal characteristics of pesticides and
the potential link with breast cancer; 2) follow-up to National Academy
of Science's report Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children and
3) worker protection standards.
Recent epidemiologic studies indicate a possible link between breast
cancer and organochlorine pesticides such as DDT, which exhibit
estrogenic properties. It is clear that further research is necessary
in order to acquire a better understanding of estrogenic pesticides and
cancer induction. EPA is one of several agencies active in a multi-year
prospective epidemiological study of pesticide exposure and cancer,
including breast cancer. EPA has also begun a project that will examine
the implications of mammary tumors induced by chemicals in rodents as an
indicator of human cancer risk.
Toxic Substances Control Act -- authorizes EPA to acquire information on
chemical substances in order to identify and regulate potential hazards
for the protection of human health and the environment. An example of
activities specifically undertaken to address potential injury to women
by toxic chemical exposure is the promulgation of the Siloxanes Section
Bid rule. This rule was promulgated following allegations of health
effects associated with silicone medical implants. The rule requires
manufacturers, processors, and distributors of Siloxanes to submit
health and safety studies for Federal use in the regulations of silicone
FEDERAL ACTION -- AIR PROGRAMS
Air Pollution -- Carbon monoxide (CO) is an example of a criterion air
pollutant that can cause developmental health effects in fetuses and
children. Women are especially affected by the adverse effects of this
pollutant. The primary source of carbon monoxide in the ambient air is
from mobile sources. To that end, the new Clean Air Act Amendments of
1990 are making significant progress in helping U.S. cities reduce
ambient carbon monoxide to levels below the national ambient air quality
standard. In 1980, mobile sources contributed 70% to ambient CO levels.
By 1992, that number had been reduced to 48%.
Indoor Air Quality -- Indoor air, radon, and pesticide exposures are
among the highest potential environmental human health risks. The home
environment can be a significant source of these pollutants, so females
who work in the home for a significant portion of the day may be
disproportionately exposed. Exposures to lead dust, carbon monoxide,
biological contaminants, household cleaners, and other pollutants may
impact the homemaker. Studies indicate that indoor levels of pollutants
may be 2-5 times (and occasionally up to 100 times) higher that outdoor
levels. The federal strategy to address the health effects of exposure
to indoor air pollutants in the home, in schools, and in the workplace
and to reduce exposures includes:
-- Upgrading building design and operation;
-- Identifying risks like radon, asbestos, tobacco smoke, and lead;
-- Increasing public awareness of indoor air pollutants by publishing a
wide range of information materials;
-- Training key indoor air audiences and clienteles; and
-- Working with other agencies to coordinate the federal government's
indoor air efforts.
A specific health problem that appears to disproportionately effect
women is asthma. In the U.S., asthma mortality and morbidity
disproportionately affect children, women, people of color, and people
in urban areas. Poverty is a common factor among those with asthma,
with the indoor air environment cited as a contributing factor.
Possible contributing elements to poor indoor air include inadequate
humidity, appliances with poor combustion systems, use of kerosene,
woodstoves, and gas heaters, and exposure to allergens or irritants such
as tobacco smoke.
Other Hazardous Pollutants -- Lead is a persistent bioaccumulative
pollutant that accumulates in the bones of humans. During pregnancy,
lead leaches from the bones of women along with calcium and is rapidly
diffused to the placenta. Lead is also released during lactation and at
menopause. EPA's efforts to remove lead from gasoline have had a
tremendous impact on the level of lead in the ambient air. For example,
as a result of the advent of unleaded gasoline the U.S., the motor
vehicle's contribution to total ambient levels of lead was reduced from
80% in 1982 to 28% in 1990. Because motor vehicles are the primary
contributor to ambient lead levels, the overall reduction of lead in the
air was similarly noteworthy -- from 1983 to 1992 an 89% decrease.
Ethylene oxide (EO) is an example of an air pollutant that may cause
reproductive effects in both males and females. Data indicate that EO
causes decreased fertility in females and genotoxic effects in males.
EPA's proposed regulations of EO emissions from ethylene oxide
commercial sterilizers could reduce emissions from 1,100 tons per year
to 150 tons per year.
Safe Drinking Water -- EPA sets standards for drinking water quality and
requirements for treatment to protect sensitive members of the
population over a lifetime of exposure. Standards based on non-cancer
health effects incorporate a margin of safety to account specifically
for sensitive populations such as women, infants, or the elderly. For
carcinogens, the health goals is set at zero and the standard is set as
close to zero as feasible.
The Clean Water Act of 1972 and its amendments are the driving force
behind many of the water quality improvements we have witnessed in
recent years. Key provisions provide such pollution control programs as
establishment of water quality standards and criteria, effluent
guidelines and development of total maximum daily loads. In addition,
the EPA has recently released guidance to help state and local public
health agencies develop fish consumption limits designed to specifically
protect women, especially those of child-bearing age, and children, as
well as the general population against exposure to chemical contaminants
in noncommercial freshwater and estuarine fish and shellfish.
Atomic Energy Act -- Fetuses exposed to radiation have greater risk for
physical malformations, cancer, hereditary effects, and mental
retardation. To address this issue, EPA produced Radiation Protection
Guidance to Federal Agencies for Occupational Exposure and recommended
that occupational exposure of a woman who has declared her pregnancy be
maintained as low as is reasonably achievable and in any case should not
exceed a fraction of the annual dose to other adult workers during the
entire gestation period. Protection of the unborn may be achieved
through measures such as temporary job rotation, worker self-selection
by task, or use of protective equipment. Such measures must also
conform with the provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
prohibiting discrimination in employment practices.
The Agency is implementing a Combustion Strategy that will have a direct
impact on the health of women. Combustion is currently a large
component of hazardous waste management in the United States. Hazardous
wastes being burned today include spent solvents, sludges, and organic
chemicals and products. About 5 million tons of these organic wastes
are being burned each year by 355 hazardous waste incinerators, boilers
and industrial furnaces, and cement kilns each year. As these organic
compounds are burned, hazardous pollutants such as dioxin, particulate
matter, and heavy metal gases are emitted into the air.
These pollutants, particularly dioxin, are particularly hazardous to
fetuses. To address this issue, the Agency will be proposing a
rulemaking that will develop tighter technical standards for the
emission levels of incinerators, cement kilns, boilers, and furnaces for
There are situations where women are exposed disproportionately to
certain air pollutants. Though it is generally the jurisdiction of OSHA
to protect workplace populations, some of EPA's programs address
environments whose exposed populations include a significant percentage
of women. As mentioned previously, our technical ability to determine
the exposure of particular segments of the population, such as women, is
not developed. New modelling and exposure work is underway to improve
this capacity however. For example, the Hazardous Air Pollutant
Exposure Model (HAPEM), developed in the early 1990's, uses data on
approximately 10 microenvironments and on activity patterns of specific
cohorts to model exposure levels for groups. HAPEM has the capability
to model exposure levels for groups such as women of child-bearing age.
This information could be used for EPA efforts such as the air toxic
residual risk analysis required by the new Clean Air Act. HAPEM would
be useful for the assessment of scenarios where women may be
differentially exposed to a given air toxin or pollutant.
CURRENT CHALLENGES AND STRATEGIES
Although traditionally EPA's efforts have been targeted by environmental
problems, legislation and policies should focus our resources on subsets
of the population that are at greater risk. Women, specifically women
of color and indigenous communities, have been identified as a
population of concern. There is a need for studies on this subset of
the population in order to target our efforts appropriately.
To address this current data gap, the Agency should begin to evaluate
women separately so that baseline information from research or
investigations may be evaluated. Areas in which women could be drawn
out as a distinct population could include risk assessment analyses and
socio-economic/environment justice evaluations. In order to target
women specifically for technological transfer projects, EPA should
identify the areas where they are concentrated in the workforce.
Studies show that there are more single parent/poor women than men in
the United States. Therefore, these women would be more likely to be
found in the poorest communities in the cities which are most
susceptible to urban environmental hazards (such as lead paint,
asbestos, indoor air, carbon monoxide and ozone pollution, etc.).
An example of a specific health effect that appears to
disproportionately effect women is asthma. In the U.S., asthma
mortality and morbidity disproportionately affect children, women,
people of color and people in urban areas. Poverty is a common factor
among those with asthma, with the indoor air environment cited as a
contributing factor. Possible contributing elements to poor indoor air
include inadequate humidity; appliances with poor combustion systems;
use of kerosene, woodstoves and gas heaters; and exposure to allergens
or irritants such as tobacco smoke. EPA's indoor air improvement
programs, if targeted at such populations, could significantly reduce
the incidence of asthma.
Young women are the fastest growing population of smokers in the United
States. EPA should increase its outreach efforts to heighten awareness
in this age group of smokers, since environmental tobacco smoke affects
the health of their offspring.
NON-GOVERNMENTAL SOURCES for DEVELOPMENT SECTION
Economic Policy Institute
"More Women Take Low-Wage Jobs Just So Their Families Can Get By," Peter
T.Kilborn, New York Times, March 13, 1994
Judith Lichtman, Women's Legal Defense Fund Testimony before the
Commission on the Future of Labor - Management Relations, April 1994
Presentation by Dr. Kathleen Christensen, City University of New York,
Lisa Prugl, Florida International University and Eileen Boris, Howard
University, Washington, D.C.
American Association of Retired Persons
Older Women's League
Ms. Foundation for Women
American Association of University Women
Wages for Housework Campaign
"Putting Home Economics into Macroeconomics," Jeremy Greenwood, Richard
Rogerson and Randall Wright, Quarterly Review of the Federal Reserve
Bank of Minneapolis, Summer 1993
Feminist Majority Foundation
[End of Section 4 or 5]
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