Texas Tech Management Expert Explores Women's Place in the Workforce
March 14, 2008
Women’s History Month brings up questions of women’s progress in business.
The well-known phrase "You’ve come a long way, baby" was a 1968 advertising slogan
for Virginia Slims cigarettes. Now four decades later, one Texas Tech University expert
considers where women were in the world of work in 1968 and whether they really have
come a long way.
Linda Krefting, associate professor of management in Texas Tech’s Rawls College of
Business, says women have made progress, however slow, but that patterns of gender
segregation still exist in certain industries.
"In the 1960s more than 90 percent of women workers were clustered in a limited number
of occupations, a "women’s ghetto" where most workers were women – light manufacturing,
retail sales, clerical work, and health and education," said Krefting.
Employment ads in newspapers had separate listings for "help wanted—male" and "help
wanted—female." According to Krefting, Catalyst formed in 1962 as an organization
to help women enter the labor force. She also found a quote from a 1968 supervisor’s
handbook advising that "Women as a rule don’t seek job promotion – their emotions
are secure in a limited job."
Krefting’s research found that, in the 1960s, about 43 percent of women of working
age were in the labor force, either working or actively seeking work. Men were more
likely than women to have had a least some college (28 percent vs. 22 percent). Working
women’s earnings were about 60 percent of men’s earnings. Women’s unemployment rates
were about 30 percent higher than men’s.
"Second-wave feminism was part of social change in the 1960s," said Krefting. "First-wave
feminists in the last half of the 19th century and first decades of the 20th century
focused on women’s suffrage – gaining the right to vote. The second wave of feminism
in the 1960s objected to exclusion of women or their invisibility in many areas of
Krefting found that across the years, issues of gender and work have expanded and
the focus has changed from "fixing women" toward "fixing organizations," a notion
advanced by Catalyst. In the 1980s, work and family balance and the glass ceiling
became subjects of interest. Catalyst began tracking and reporting women’s representation
on boards of directors in 1993, when women held 8.3 percent of board seats for Fortune
The latest data (from 2005-2007 depending on the statistic) shows that much has changed
for women, but that they have not achieved parity. The percentage of women in the
labor force has grown to about 60 percent (up from 43 percent). Women now are more
likely than men to have had some college education (64 percent vs. 48 percent). Women’s
unemployment rates are no longer higher than those of men. Catalyst reports that women
now hold 14.7 percent of the board seats at Fortune 500 companies.
Women’s earnings have increased relative to men’s, although the progress has been
a slow half-penny per year. Median earnings for working women are now about 81% of
men’s median earnings. The wage gap is even less for younger workers; for those under
25, women’s earnings are about 92% of men’s. The dollar wage gap increases with education
level, and the pay-off for education is greater for men. With a high school education,
women make $26,000 per year whereas men make $36,000. With a four-year college degree,
women make $42,000 but men make $57,000.
Today, many occupations continue patterns of gender segregation. Women hold more than
90 percent of positions in such jobs as bookkeeping clerks, childcare workers, preschool
and kindergarten teachers, registered nurses, receptionists, secretaries and teacher
The emergence of gendered patterns in the computer industry has been of particular
interest, according to Krefting. "The industry was in its infancy in the 1960s and
has grown remarkably during the period when women’s role in the workforce expanded
substantially. While it might be expected that an industry which evolved after passage
of the Equal Pay and Civil Rights Acts should demonstrate gender parity, such is not
the case. Many computer industry jobs are typically male-dominated," she said.
CONTACT: Linda Krefting, associate professor, Rawls College of Business,
(806) 742-2157, or firstname.lastname@example.org.