Although the past two decades had changed and improved the workplace policies dramatically and more professional opportunities have opened to women, a recent survey of Frederick County women revealed that they still face workplace challenges. Four out of the top eight needs women have today are work- related, according to the Frederick County Commission for Women report. Pay equity tops the list of needs and nearly 98 percent of the 356 women who completed the written survey ranked pay equity as an important or somewhat important need for them.
And less than half of them — 45. 3 percent — said they believe this need had been met well or moderately well in Frederick County. The large number of women who were not satisfied that there is gender pay parity is significant. A gap of more than 50 points in most consumer satisfaction surveys is considered to be failing. Moreover, Asian women earned 86 cents for every dollar men received in 2004. White women earned 76 cents, black women earned 71 cents and Hispanic women earned 59 cents for every dollar men received (Hernandez, 26 March 2006).
Obviously, there are benefits and limitations of companies hiring working mothers. Despite the maternity policies, the challenges for women who choose to be mothers and have professional careers just begin at childbirth. There is no public day care and only the best employers make such support available. Depending on location, private day care standards vary greatly. Another issue that also needs to be pondered is how working opportunities become available to working mothers when the advancement of career is concerned.
In a 1996 survey by Catalyst, a non-profit research and advocacy organization for women, top male and female executives disagreed about why women rarely make it to the top in business. More than 80% of male CEOs said that women fail to advance because they lack the right experience. Although 47% of women also acknowledged that lack of experience was a problem, 52% said that the biggest barrier to female advancement was “male stereotyping and preconceptions of women” (Dobrzynski, 28 February 1996). The second-most common answer among women in the survey was that they were excluded from informal networking within the company.
They complained that many important decisions are made during social outings, such as rounds of golf, that women are generally not invited to attend. Top female executives said they had gotten ahead by “consistently exceeding performance expectations” and by “developing a style that men are comfortable with. ” Some women said that style included playing golf or talking about sports. Although gender-based wage discrimination has been illegal since 1963, many women’s activists say it is still common practice.
In a 1997 survey by the Working Women’s Department of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), an umbrella group of labor unions, the issue of equal pay proved to be a key concern of working women. Of the 50,000 wage-earning women polled, fully 94% said “equal pay for equal work” was a “very important” issue for them. More than one-third said they were not receiving pay that was equal to that earned by men in similar jobs (Dionne, 18 March 1997). Critics point out the continuing wage gap between male and female employees.
In 1996, the average annual wage of women was 74% of that earned by men. Although that gap has decreased substantially since 1979, when women earned less than 60% of what men earned, many feminists say the more recent figures are still not cause for celebration. Part of the reason for that wage gap is that women tend to be clustered in low-paying jobs that have few opportunities for advancement. In 1997, the most common job for women was as a secretary; more than 98% of all secretarial jobs were held by women. Also, although opportunities abroad for women increased, the progress is slow.
According to a study conducted by Catalyst (2000), over 65 percent of human resource executives see international opportunities for white women as having increased somewhat or greatly from 1995 to 2000. Less than half, though, report similar progress for women of color. Misconceptions about women’s ability to handle international assignments and willingness to accept those assignments are key barriers to women getting selected for the global business arena. While women represent 49 percent of all managers and professionals in the United States, only 13 percent of the United States managers sent abroad are women.