Corporate 'glass ceiling' maintains gender wage gap, researcher says

October 21, 1990|By Carol Kleiman | Carol Kleiman,Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- The nation's top economists and women's rights advocates have spelled out many times the reasons full-time women workers make only 68 cents for every dollar earned by men.

They say women are paid less because they are segregated into lower-paying jobs in disproportionate numbers. And even women top professional occupations, such as doctors, lawyers and business executives, make less than their male counterparts on the same level.

But now another factor to be considered about women's wages is the "glass ceiling," which keeps qualified women from being promoted beyond a certain level. A Fortune magazine study of DTC 799 major companies shows 3,993 men and only 19 women in top executive positions.

Elizabeth Dole, secretary of labor, has announced a glass ceiling "initiative" to help women get on a faster career track. She says she will cancel federal contracts with employers who do not promote women, which is a violation of regulations of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.

But the glass ceiling, now called by employed women the "cement" or "iron" ceiling, also directly affects salaries, said one researcher.

"If women can't go any further simply because we're female, we'll never make the same money as men, and there always will be a wage gap," said Charla A. Schmid of Red Oak, Iowa, author of a study titled "The Glass Ceiling: The Impact of Corporate Organizational Structures on Women's Wages."

"Bryant Gumbel makes $2 million, but Jane Pauley, who got up just as early, made only $750,000. Diane Sawyer makes $1.2 million, but Willard Scott makes more than she does: $1 million in personal appearances plus $500,000 for showing us pictures of 100-year-old people and reporting the weather."

Ms. Schmid's insights are sharp and to the point, but she is a new player in the analysis field. She is not a nationally known economist nor academician. Instead, Ms. Schmid, 37, is a systems consultant for American Telephone & Telegraph Co. in Omaha.

Her research paper was delivered at this year's national convention of the Business and Professional Women/USA, based in Washington, which met in July in Charlotte, N.C.

Ms. Schmid, who drives 60 miles each way to work from the family farm she and her husband, Timothy, own, is a member of the organization's Red Oak chapter. She joined in 1987 at the urging of her husband's aunt.

Last January, Ms. Schmid signed up for a free, eight-week course in individual development offered by her chapter for two hours on Saturdays. "We learned how to speak in front of an audience, and we had a competition for the best two-minute speech," said Schmid, a high school graduate who has a two-year college diploma.

Ms. Schmid's research, which she did on her lunch hour and in the evening, is considered solid.

"What she says is true," said Heidi Hartmann, economist and director of the Institute for Women's Policy Research in Washington. "The wage gap between women and men is due to the fact that women and men have different jobs, and the women's jobs tend to be lower paying. And, it's due to the fact that even when women and men hold the same job title, women are paid less."

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