'Good' news for female workers disputed

February 17, 1991|By Chicago Tribune

The Labor Department presented an optimistic view recently of female workers' progress, but not all women were convinced.

A report by the department's Bureau of Labor Statistics enthusiastically describes the "extraordinary growth in the participation of women in the work force . . . and the growth in the representation of women in a wide variety of managerial occupations. . . .

"Women now constitute 40 percent of all workers in executive, administrative and managerial occupations, up from 20 percent in 1972 and 30 percent in 1980," the report says. "While the women in these fields still earn substantially less than men, the relative wage gap between women and men in these fields has narrowed gradually."

Not everyone agrees with the report's conclusions, however. Barbara F. Reskin, professor of sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says many of the "gains" are "illusory."

"While there has been real progress for women, it's been in oc

cupations men no longer want to do because the jobs were deteriorating, lost status and paid less," said Ms. Reskin, who is co-author, with Rutgers University sociologist Patricia A. Roos, of the book "Job Queues, Gender Queues: Explaining Women's Inroads into Male Occupations."

"Employers had no choice but to hire women," said Ms. Reskin, who has a doctorate in sociology and is vice president of the American Sociology Association. "It was a case of 'he [doesn't] want it; she can have it.' Men still get first dibs at the best jobs."

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