Women Score Major Gains

Article excerpt

We often hear that women have been the biggest beneficiaries of affirmative action. In fact, whether the credit belongs to affirmative action, the birth-control pill, economic growth or a combination of factors, women have made remarkable progress in the past 30 years. Why have women succeeded so well while other minorities have not?

First, women aren't a minority; they constitute more than 51 percent of the U.S. population. But like racial and ethnic minorities, women until the 1960s generally lacked access to educational and employment opportunities. What did they do when previously closed doors began to open for them? Government-gathered statistics tell the story.

Women went to college. In 1960, only 19 percent of bachelor's degrees were awarded to women. By 1992, women received 55 percent of bachelor's degrees and 54 percent of master's degrees.

In 1960, women received only 5.5 percent of medical doctor degrees and 2.5 percent of law degrees. By 1992, women constituted more than 35 percent of new physicians and 42 percent of new lawyers. Today, women constitute more than 22 percent of doctors and almost 25 percent of lawyers and judges.

Women also left home and went to work. Today, women constitute 46 percent of the civilian work force. Among women 25 to 54, 74 percent work outside the home. This includes 60 percent of married women, up from 32 percent in 1960.

We often hear about a "wage gap" between women and men. In 1992, the ratio of female to male, year-round, full-time earnings was 71 cents to the dollar. This includes workers of all ages and all types of jobs. Among workers 25 to 34, the 1992 ratio was 82 cents on the dollar.

In a real "apples to apples" comparison, the gap narrows more. June E. O'Neill, director of the Congressional Budget Office, did a study that found that among people 27 to 33 who have never had a child, women's earnings were about 98 percent of men's. Similar results occur when comparing the earnings of women and men of the same education and experience in the same professions.

Women outnumber men in several significant job areas. For example, women far outnumber men in health and medicine management (79 percent female) and personnel and labor relations management (61 percent female). …