WASHINGTON -- While most U.S. women like their jobs, they're stretched to the breaking point trying to juggle family, work, child care and other pressing concerns.
That's the consensus from a first-of-its-kind survey of America's working women, distributed by the Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor. First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton joined Vice President Al Gore and Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich in a news conference yesterday to discuss survey results.
More than 250,000 women responded to the "Working Women Count" survey, which polled women on issues such as equal pay, job advancement, and child and health care.
"The portrait of the American woman that has emerged is complex, vibrant and diverse, but showed us how much work we have to do to remove hurdles from women's paths," Mr. Reich said.
Mr. Reich and others found one survey response particularly startling -- four in five women either "love" or "like" their jobs. "Given the nature of their response in other areas, like the need for child care and pay inequity, that was a surprise for us," said Karen Nussbaum, Women's Bureau director.
But like a 41-year-old respondent from Cleveland, if American working women could sit down with President Clinton, they'd say just one thing: "I'm tired."
Women said they are tired of trying to run offices and households and lives, tired of workplace policies that penalize them for responding to their children's needs, tired of doing the same work for less pay than their male counterparts.
It is this feeling of devaluation that government and industry must address, Mr. Reich said.
"Those companies that are treating employees as assets are seeing benefits on the bottom line," he said.
"Women are saying that they want to be treated not as disposable entities but indispensable assets."
The questionnaire was distributed through the mail, in newspapers and to companies and organizations nationwide. Also, the Labor Department conducted a scientific survey using the same questions with a random sample of 1,200 working women. The scientific survey was much more representative of all women, Ms. Nussbaum said, because respondents came from a broader range of economic and educational backgrounds.
Among the highlights:
* Fifty-six percent of women with children under age 5 said that finding affordable child care is a serious problem, according to both the popular and scientific surveys.
* Most women said improving pay scales is a high priority. In the popular survey, 55 percent said they aren't getting paid what they're worth. In the scientific survey, 49 percent said they don't get commensurate pay.
* Fifty-two percent of women in the scientific survey and 61 percent in the popular survey said that on-the-job training is vital for change.
* The No. 1 issue women would like to talk with Mr. Clinton about is their inability to balance work and family. Unequal or unfair pay is second, and lack of equal treatment or opportunity is third.
* Three-fifths of women in the scientific sample said they have little or no opportunity to advance.
"Companies that hire and train women but then let them leave because they won't offer advancement are incredibly shortsighted," said Thomas White, Hilton chair of business ethics at Loyola Marymount College in Los Angeles.
That most women like their jobs but decry enduring workplace problems is not surprising to one psychologist who studies women and workplace issues.
"Those results confirm the belief that workplace involvement is extremely important for a woman's self-esteem," said Dr. Catherine Chambliss of Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pa.