As Shirley L. Bigley worked her way up from law school graduate to Citibank Maryland vice president during the 1980s, she never felt like a pioneer among working women.
It was more like being part of a movement, she says. Sure enough, newly released 1990 census figures show Ms. Bigley had plenty of female company as she climbed the job ladder.
Tens of thousands of Maryland women -- and millions across the United States -- moved into professional and managerial jobs during the 1980s, the data show.
"It was right in my vintage when the numbers of women dramatically started to change," said Ms. Bigley, 38, Citibank's director of community affairs and the first woman in her family to earn a college degree. "My law school class was about 40 percent female, and it never occurred to me when I was younger that I wasn't going to go to college and professional school."
For the first time, the 1990 census shows, women outnumbered men in Maryland in "professional specialty" occupations -- a U.S. Census Bureau category that includes everything from doctors, lawyers and scientists to teachers, nurses and librarians.
Maryland women had nearly half the jobs in the "executive, administrative and managerial" category -- which includes a wide range of managers as well as accountants and buyers. That was up from only one-third in 1980, according to the Maryland Office of Planning.
However, the single largest group of Maryland women -- more than 350,000 -- still worked in lower-paying "administrative support" jobs, such as secretaries and clerks.
Nationally, the number of working women increased by 27 percent during the 1980s, according to 1990 census data being released today. In Maryland, women in the work force shot up by more than one-third.
As the postwar baby boom generation finished entering the job market, Maryland's work force grew by 25 percent overall. By 1990, the state ranked third in the nation with 63 percent of women working, up from 44 percent in 1970.