It is no surprise that women are becoming a greater part of the labor force. In 1920, there were two women workers for every ten men workers; today, more than four out of every ten American workers are women. From 1960 to June 1980, the number of employed women rose from 23.3 million to 44.1 million, a jump of 90 percent compared to a 29 percent rise for men, from 46.4 million to 59.8 million.
The Kinds of Clerical Positions In Which Men Or Women Are Still Predominant Today
It is not too surprising to find women in over nine-tenths of the telephone operator or secretarial positions, but it is quite surprising to discover that even the bookkeeping positions, which have been traditionally held by men, are now more than nine-tenths filled by women.
There remain, however, a few clerical positions in which men still predominate, as the following chart shows.
The findings of the Bangs and Hillestad study on automated data processing indicated that, in 1968, men also predominated in the following relatively newer office jobs: unit record equipment operator, 63 percent; computer console operator, 90 percent; programmer, 82 percent; data processing manager, 93 percent; and systems analyst, 92 percent. However, 98 percent of the keypunch operators and 65 percent of the tape librarians were women. A change in the employment trend by sex is reflected in the figures compiled in 1979 by the Department of Labor which indicate that jobs as computer and peripheral equipment operators are now held by only 38.4 percent of the males; from a figure of 321,000 persons employed as programmers, 71 percent are now males; and of the 177,000 systems analysts, only 75.7 positions are held by men.
The "New Mix" Of Working Women
One more look at statistics indicates a "new mix" of working women-a group of married, divorced, separated, or single women. Of the nearly 35 million women in the labor force in 1973, 42 percent of them were married, and 40 percent had children under the age of 18. In March, 1975, working wives comprised 44.4 percent of the labor force.
By 1979, 60 percent of all women between the ages of 18 and 64 were workers, compared with 88 percent of men. During the first quarter of 1980, 57 percent of all mothers with children under 18 years were in the labor force, of which 45 percent were mothers with preschool children. By November 1980, of the 97.8 million persons employed, nearly 42 million were women, of whom 43.5 percent were clerical workers. The most dramatic increase in the labor force participation has been for women from 25 to 34 years of age. Women in this age group no longer enter the work force with the intention of staying only until they marry nor have children. They often continue in their positions for many years, and large numbers of married women start their careers late in life. Approximately two-thirds of the 42 million working women work to support themselves and their families, or to help raise their families' standard of living.
Just what is the significance of all these statistics? It is apparent that the female labor force is significantly different from past decades. Even to the high school student not yet at work, they have meaning. In general, they say:
- That there are now and probably will continue to be proportionately more jobs in the clerical field than in others.
- That most clerical occupations are feminized, except for some key positions in data processing and office management.
- That the automation of processes in business and industry, accompanied by the growing complexity of business and industry, has increased the need for clerical workers.
- That additional training will be needed to fill the new jobs brought about by automation.
- That, as statistics indicate that work is today not merely a stopgap until marriage, management will give more consideration to additional training for women and there will be increasingly more opportunities for them to advance to higher positions.
- That successful employees are those who are able to adapt to changes in equipment, work procedures, and workspace.
- That education becomes more important as it becomes apparent that today's training will be used for many years.
- That legislation enacted during the past decade barring discrimination in employment on the basis of sex should make available new opportunities for women, should enable them to secure more diversified jobs, and should enable women to secure and advance to jobs requiring more responsibility and a higher skill level than was formerly possible.