African-American Women and Work: Still a Tale of Two Cities

By Herman, Alexis | National Urban League. The State of Black America, January 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

African-American Women and Work: Still a Tale of Two Cities


Herman, Alexis, National Urban League. The State of Black America


For more than 60 years, we have lived through and been part of one of the most remarkable social revolutions in history. That revolution has fundamentally changed the relationship between women and work. In 1940, 28 percent of women were in the labor force, compared to 38 percent in 1970, and 60.6 percent in 2007.1 In 1940, one in four workers was a woman, today almost one in two are women.2 However, we must remember that this revolution was mostly about non-African Americans, because African-American women have always worked-in their own homes, in the homes of others, and in the limited areas of the workplace that were open to them. Today, African-American women continue to have the highest labor force participation rate among women at 63.4 percent.

The days of Ozzie and Harriet, a television sitcom family of the 50's and 60s, where Harriet stayed at home with two kids, are long gone, as two-tiurds of married couples have two earners. Further, over 70 percent of women with children are in the workforce and even two out of three women with preschool aged kids work. Harriet has joined the 64.9 million employed women as of 2007, and she not only works, but also she is increasingly likely to make more than Ozzie, as one in four wives today make more than their husbands.

While trends in labor force outcomes are similar for black and white women, important differences exist Another sitcom of the 60s gave us a brief look at some of these differences. Diahann Carroll-like Oprah Winfrey today-made TV history. As "Julia" on her weekly show of the same name, Carroll depicted a widowed African-American woman raising her child alone, while employed as a registered nurse-an occupation few African-American women were held at the time. The experience of African-American women raising children alone has always been a reality, but today it is simply more dramatic. However, even though African-American women have always been heavily invested in the workforce, we are more likely to be found working in education and healthcare where the pay is generally lower.

The plight of African-American women and their overall status in the workplace reminds me still of a tale of two cities. One city sits on the hill-bright and shimmering, reflecting the progress and the promise of tomorrow for women in our economy. The other city sits in the valley, little changed from the reality of our youth, characterized by low pay and limited opportunities.

Some of the shimmer is a reflection of our successes and progress. Women have served as secretary of State and today a young woman is flying her F-14 into combat over Afghanistan helping to protect us from terrorism. Women's tennis outdraws male tennis, and our daughters can dream of playing professional sports. African-American women, in particular, have dominated the world of professional tennis with the advent of Serena and Venus Williams. And, while African-American women have not broken the ranks of governorship, we have held four presidential cabinet appointments; one of us has served in the United States Senate and we hold the mantle of mayor increasingly in cities across the nation. African-American women hold 14 of 435 Congressional seats; and 215 seats in state legislatures, serving 37 states.3 We are gaining ground slowly in leadership positions at institutions of higher education and have ascended to the presidency of major educational institutions-at both historically black colleges and universities, as well as mainstream institutions.

All women, including African-American women, make up the majority of those getting associates, bachelor, and masters degrees. African-American women in particular are acquiring higher degrees in record numbers. For instance, most recently, African-American women were awarded 90,312 bachelors, 38,749 masters and 2,007 doctorates.4 In America, there is an estimated 250,000 women lawyers, 16,000 black; and about 189,000 women physicians and surgeons, of which 13,000 are black. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

African-American Women and Work: Still a Tale of Two Cities
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.