The American Work Ethic and the Changing Work Force: An Historical Perspective

By Herbert Applebaum | Go to book overview

19
WOMEN IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

To introduce this chapter on women's work in the twentieth century it may be useful to summarize a news report called "Working Women Count" ( New Jersey Star Ledger) on a survey of 250,000 women expressing opinions about juggling jobs and family responsibilities. It sought female opinions on job satisfaction, wages and salaries, benefits, and opportunities for advancement. The report concluded that "America's working women are exhausted." The study showed that women are angry at not getting a fair deal, revealing that most women are still segregated in low-paying, traditionally female jobs in clerical, sales, and service occupations. Women who hold professional positions are still clustered in fields like education, social work, and nursing, where wages are much lower than in business, law, engineering, medicine, and other professions where men dominate. Nearly threequarters of women in their forties holding professional and management jobs listed stress as the most-mentioned problem, as did more than two-thirds of single working mothers. Not surprisingly, women also complained of being paid less than men and of having fewer opportunities for advancement.


WOMEN IN THE WORK FORCE

The rapid growth of the service sector in the twentieth century--particularly clerical and sales positions--was a crucial factor for the growth of females in the labor force. Between 1900 and 1960, the number of secretaries, stenographers, and typists grew twenty times, absorbing over 2.1 million workers, 96.5 percent of whom are female. By 1960, almost one of every three employed women worked in a clerical job. Women are still entering jobs construed as feminine gendered--elementary and high school teachers, nurses, social workers, librarians, and office workers.

Some women attempted to gain entrance into the crafts, but their progress has been very slow given the resistance of craft unions to accept women. The Parnest

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