While feminist groups have advanced the equal political, economic and social rights – as well as equal opportunities – of women, efforts for women’s equality in the work force have sparked a number of debates about the nature and role of women in both the professional world as well as in the family. With women now comprising 47% of the total U.S. labor force, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, these questions are increasingly important.
Two female University of Dallas professors discussed several of the problems that still face women in the work force with The University News.
According to Dr. Sue Conger, director of the IT program at UD, women face the same problems as many minorities in the work force.
One of these issues is the balance between work and family life. While Conger said that this is a problem for all people, regardless of gender or age, it is especially an issue for women.
“There is more pressure on women, especially when they start having kids,” Conger said. “It takes two to make a baby, but only one to manage it. Most guys think it’s the woman’s problem.”
Dr. Susan Rhame, an assistant professor of accounting at UD, said that when she started having children, she quit her job.
“I took off seven years, but that’s when I started working toward my Ph.D.,” she said. “It’s a choice I made, and I don’t regret it. Yes, it was hard – it’s still hard – but overall, men help out more these days. They help carry that responsibility so that both the man and the woman can have a career.”
Many companies have also begun offering more options to women with children, allowing them to cut back on their hours or work from home.
“Technology and computers have made work more flexible,” Rhame said. “Women can work partially at home from computers. You can’t do that in all fields, but in certain ones it is very helpful.”
According to Conger, another one of the biggest problems that women face is the issue of equal pay.
The U.S. Department of Labor has reported that the earnings gap has been narrowing since 1979. In 1979 women earned 62 percent of the amount paid to men in the same positions, but in 2010, women earned 81 percent of what was paid to their male counterparts.
“It’s a documented fact that women make less than men,” Conger said. “You can’t dwell on that because you can’t change that personally. You do the best you can.”
But the issue of pay often has greater consequences than is readily apparent. This has to do with the increasingly transitory and mobile nature of jobs.
“As soon as you are married,” Conger said, “your husband will invariably be offered a job out-of-town. And in all likelihood, the man will make more money than the woman. If that’s the most important thing, then that’s where you go. You compromise.”
Conger said that she has had to deal with many of these issues, saying that, even so, she has been very blessed with both her family and her career.
“I love what I do. There’s not much else that you can do that’s better,” she said.
Nevertheless, Conger said that her experience has been the exception rather than the norm, and that for much of the work world, there is a larger problem.
“Generally, to be recognized in the workforce,” Conger said, “it’s not good enough for a woman to be equal to a man. She must be better than him.”