Sunday, July 25, 2010

Women's Careers: The More Things Change, the More Things Stay the Same

It's 2010. These days, girls and women can be whatever they want, do whatever they want -- the world is our oyster. Right? Equal opportunity is ours, doors have been flung open, and career and family choices are no longer constrained by gender-based stereotypes.

If you believe that, I have a bridge in a certain NYC borough with your name on it.

According to the Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor, the 16 most prevalent occupations for employed women in 2009 were as follows:

Secretaries and administrative assistants: 3,074,000
Registered nurses: 2,612,000
Elementary and middle school teachers: 2,343,000
Cashiers: 2,273,000
Nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides: 1,770,000
Retail salespersons: 1,650,000
First-line supervisors of retail sales workers: 1,459,000
Waiters and waitresses: 1,434,000
Maids and housekeeping cleaners: 1,282,000
Customer service representatives: 1,263,000
Child care workers: 1,228,000
Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks: 1,205,000
Receptionists and information clerks: 1,168,000
First-line supervisors of office & admin support workers: 1,163,000
Managers, all other: 1,106,000
Accountants and auditors: 1,084,000

Do these occupations look barrier breaking to you? Lots of them likely don't pay living wages and are unlikely to have health insurance, paid sick days, vacation, and retirement plans. They also are distressingly, well, typical. That is not to say its not respectable work. What I mean is that women are still very much constrained to career paths that are extensions of their traditional roles in the home. But we know when women get good career counseling that covers the range of options -- including typical pay and benefits -- they often make different choices. These pink collar jobs are often a low-paying self-fulfilling prophecy. The majority of women might now be in the workplace, we still have a ways to go for true equal opportunity. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Copyright 2010 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

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