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November 18, 2010

Year of the Woman? Eight Jobs That Are Still Sexist.

Filed under: General HR Buzz7:59 am

With all the talk of mama grizzlies, paycheck fairness, and women becoming the majority of American workers, it’s easy to declare the battle of the sexes dead. But as we learned once the votes were counted on Nov. 2, 2010 could hardly be dubbed the Year of the Woman. In fact, this election marked the first time in nearly three decades that women did not increase their ranks—a measly 17 percent—in Congress. But politics isn’t the only profession where women are lagging behind. A look at a few of the fields where sexism persists.

In March 1970, 46 NEWSWEEK employees became the first group of media women to sue for employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Time, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, and a number of other publications would follow. But 40 years later, how much has changed? We may have two female anchors on network television, but in print journalism, male bylines still outnumber female bylines by a rate of seven to one—despite women being the majority of journalism graduates since 1977. They’re in the minority when it comes to sources, too: the Global Media Monitoring Project found that worldwide, women make up only 24 percent of the people “interviewed, heard, seen, or read about in mainstream broadcast and print news.” In this 1970 photo, the women of NEWSWEEK, along with their ACLU attorney, Eleanor Holmes Norton (center), hold a press conference to announce their suit.

Congress may have passed the Equal Pay Act way back in 1963, but a July study by a law firm found that even the highest-ranking female attorneys are paid, on average, roughly $66,000 less than their male counterparts. Despite being half of all law-school graduates, meanwhile, women still make up less than a quarter of law-firm partners. And when it comes to donning the judicial robe, women make up just one in four judges on a national level. Ouch. At least the nominations of Justice Sonia Sotomayor as the first Latina Supreme Court justice in 2009 and Elena Kagan as an associate justice in 2010 were a step in the right direction. Here, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female to serve on the Supreme Court, is sworn in by Warren Burger in 1981.

Women may make up a majority of the workforce—and graduate from college and graduate school at higher rates than men—but over time they steadily “vaporize” from the higher echelons of corporate leadership. Women remain just 3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, and even women graduating from top-tier business schools will make $4,600 less per year in their first jobs, according to a recent Catalyst study. In 1963, the year the Equal Pay Act was passed, women made 59 cents to every male dollar. Today, that figure is 77 cents—only an 18 cent bump in 47 years.

There was a small victory for women in tech earlier this year, when Mattel announced that long-time career model Barbie would have a new calling as a computer scientist. But as The New York Times pointed out, a doll is still a doll, and women in the world of tech aren’t faring as well as we might have hoped. Female college students may now earn 56 percent of the degrees in science and engineering, but once those ambitious young women hit the workforce, many of the promising statistics slowly begin to reverse themselves. As The Times notes, 56 percent of women with technical jobs leave work midway through their careers, double the turnover rate for men. Of those women, 20 percent leave the workforce entirely, while 31 percent take nontechnical jobs, suggesting that it’s not just child rearing that’s behind the switch. It could even be something more retro: as a recent Center for Work-Life Policy study revealed, 63 percent of women who leave jobs in tech and engineering say they’ve experienced workplace harassment, and more than 50 percent say they felt they needed to “act like a man” in order to succeed.

Perhaps there’s a reason so many women love Mad Men (a scene from the show is pictured here): seven of the show’s nine writers are women. But Mad Men may be the exception when it comes to female storytellers, as television as a whole and film remain a long way from parity. In film, just 16 percent of directors, executive producers, producers, writers, and cinematographers are women, according to the White House Project, and they don’t do much better on screen. One study of 122 family films (rated G, PG, and PG-13) between 2006 and 2009 found that only 29 percent of characters were female, with one in four sporting “sexy, tight, or alluring attire.” AMC’s Mad Men may be the exception when it comes to feminine scribes, but the reality for women in entertainment looks a whole lot like the time period the show portrays.

Sarah Palin may call herself a feminist, but politics is anything but a place where women have thrived. On a global scale, the U.S. ranks 71st out of 189 countries in terms of women on national legislatures, behind Afghanistan, Cuba, and the United Arab Emirates. The most recent election, on Nov. 2, 2010, marked the first time in nearly three decades that women did not increase their ranks. And female politicians who do make it? They’d better be prepared to have everything from their pantsuits to their sexual orientation dissected by the press. Here, Nancy Pelosi—who lost her post as Speaker of the House in 2010—poses with writer Nora Ephron at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in October 2010

In 1961 Barbie got her first job, other than modeling, as a registered nurse. It was a bold (if not prescient) statement at the time: in 1960, when want ads were segregated by gender, the top four jobs for American women were secretary, teacher, domestic help, and cashier. Sixty years later, you might be surprised to learn that if you swap “registered nurse” for “domestic help,” you’d be seeing the top four jobs for women today. Perhaps Barbie had a crystal ball. Still, despite the fact that women make up nine out of 10 R.N.s today, they still earn just 88 percent of what male nurses make.

It’s no secret that women comprise the vast majority of primary- and secondary-school teachers, but it’s also no surprise that when it comes to the higher-paying, more-respected teaching jobs in academia, the opposite is true. Nationally, women are now the majority of college graduates (and students), yet according to the White House Project, women make up just 26 percent of professors, 23 percent of university presidents, and 14 percent of presidents at the doctoral degree–granting institutions. What’s worse, when it comes to closing the academic salary gap, female faculty members have made no progress at all and have actually regressed. In 1972 women teachers made 83 percent what male faculty members earned; today, they’ve lost a cent for every dollar, earning just 82 percent.

Source: Jessica Bennett – Newsweek


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