Tag Archives: occupations

Family Breadwinner Finds Her Place: With The Men

My mom tells me stories like this a lot, about when she was trying to get a job in the warehouse of Procter and Gamble in the late seventies I believe.  She went in, hair long, sharply dressed, and was told that this wasn’t the place for her.

After waiting the probationary few months to reapply, she cut her hair short, wore all flannel and boots, and got the job.  Needless to say, the men in her department didn’t make it easy for her.  This was a “man’s world” and she would need to adapt, i.e. tolerate their sexually objectifying and sexist jokes.

Dee Dickson’s interview with NPR doesn’t sound a bad as my mother’s, and far better than Josey Aimes’ life in North Country.  It makes me wonder what newly-hired women experience at the shipyards today.

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Don’t feel like reading?  Listen to Dickson’s story here.

StoryCorps At StoryCorps in Biloxi, Miss., Dee Dickson, 59, told the story of how she got her first job at the shipyards.

In 1974, Dee Dickson was separated from her husband and raising two children by herself in Biloxi, Miss. Needing a job, she set her sights on becoming an electrician at a nearby shipyard. But she soon found out that it wasn’t an easy job to land.

“The guy that was interviewing told me I was too little; that I wouldn’t get along with the guys; that they would make life hard for me,” Dickson says.

“He didn’t think I needed to be doing it.”

Eventually, Dickson’s father stepped in to offer his help. His uncle Alf was a superintendent at the docks.

“Finally, at the end of that week, I let my dad take me to see Uncle Alf,” Dickson says.

They talked — and on the next Monday, Dickson reported to work at Ingalls Shipbuilding.

“The guy said, ‘Look, I got the word from the top. I don’t like it, but you’re hired.’ ”

When she went to work on her first ship, Dickson hit another obstacle. As an apprentice, she needed to learn on the job. And to do that, she needed to be paired with a “buddy.”

“But none of the guys would work with me,” Dickson says.

She recalls them telling her, “These are men’s jobs. You’re taking jobs away from men who have families.”

Her answer was simple: “I said, ‘I have a family and no man — and I need money.’ ”

Ingalls had employed women as shipbuilders before — but that was during World War II, when many male workers were serving in the military.

In Dickson’s case, “It took about two weeks before I started proving myself. And the guys were doing better with it. They would work with me.

“I had several guys who told me, ‘You need to slow down — you’re making us look bad,’ ” she says with a laugh. “You know? And I’m like, ‘I’m here to work!’ ”

And her hard work paid off.

“We had to go to school two nights a week. And I was the first apprentice who had ever become supervisor before graduation. And they were mad, because I got a raise. And I got a position they thought was theirs.

“I had a knack for getting stuff done on time, and getting it done right.”

Dickson had that knack, despite not being able to do everything most of her male co-workers could — or, at least, not in the same way.

For instance, she says, “I couldn’t lift an 80-pound transformer. But I found a way to do the same things they were doing. And it kind of made me better than I probably would’ve been if I was a guy.”

Dickson went on to work at the shipyard for a total of five years — her first stint lasted three years, and then she returned for another two after working at a nuclear power plant.

Now retired, Dickson is in the process of becoming a Methodist preacher.

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jasmyn Belcher.

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High-tech Rosies! From Sociological Images

by Lisa Wade

Many of us are familiar with the female blue-collar workers that took jobs in factories during World War II. It turns out, however, that women were also employed as mathematicians and computers (that’s “compute-ers”). In this photo, Jean Jennings Bartik and Frances Bilas Spence get ready to present an early computer to military officials in 1946:

Yes, these high-tech Rosie positions were off-limits to non-white women and most likely non-white men.  But, imagine these groups of white female mathematicians who become stay-at-home mothers shortly after the war, teaching their daughters to go to school for home economics or an MRS degree so as to not offend a potential suitor with her intellect. No wonder they were disgruntled and rejected American conformity in the postwar era.

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Where are the Women?

So if you don’t know me, I study gender in Rolling Stone in 1975, and lemme tell ya – female music journalists are very hard to find.  After 35 years, women are still hard to find behind the news desk or in other traditionally male occupations.

Today I wanted to share two interesting pieces of information on women’s occupations.

First, I read an article on the presence of women at NPR.  Although NPR is leading the industry in hiring female correspondents and hosts, NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard says that NPR utilizes very few female commentators and sources.  What’s more, Shepard says that compared to the rest of the news, NPR is golden:

“Admittedly, the relative lack of female voices reflects the broader world. The fact remains that even in the fifth decade after the feminist revolution; men are still largely in charge in government at all levels, in corporations and nearly all other aspects of society. That means, by default, there are going to be more male than female news sources.”

Here’s just one of the neat graphs that reveals the discouraging percentages of women on NPR.

What does all this mean?  When you donate your money to the annual pledge drive, say, “I want to hear more women.”  I will.  And therefore I’m going to give a shout-out to some of NPR’s leading ladies: Michel Martin, Cokie Roberts, Ann Taylor, and my favorite, Terry Gross.

So where are these women?

I was SHOCKED to learn from the Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor that in 2009, more women were secretaries than any other occupation!  More women are cooks, cashiers, waitresses, childcare workers, and MAIDS than journalists or news correspondents.  Which really shows you that you can’t separate gender from class.

Click to take you to DOL

And you know what was really frustrating –  I was trying to find the Department of Labor’s statistics on men’s top occupations, but there’s no section on men!  Look here at how they divide their demographics.  Men are essentially the default!

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The Gist on the Gender/Race Salary Gap

President Obama declared today, April 20th, National Equal Pay Day:

“Throughout our Nation’s history, extraordinary women have broken barriers to achieve their dreams and blazed trails so their daughters would not face similar obstacles. Despite decades of progress, pay inequity still hinders women and their families across our country. National Equal Pay Day symbolizes the day when an average American woman’s earnings finally match what an average American man earned in the past year. Today, we renew our commitment to end wage discrimination and celebrate the strength and vibrancy women add to our economy.”

Read the full press release here.

If you haven’t heard, women make 77 cents for every dollar men make.  However, that statistic is true for the average white woman.  This chart, included in a report done by NPR’s Jennifer Ludden on the salary gap and current legislation’s efforts to squash it, shows how women of color make far less than 77%.  And this is fine and dandy when you’re thinking about one dollar, but do the math and multiply this over the course of your career, from starting bonuses to retirement, and there’s a lot of money hiding in this pay gap.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (2008 annual averages) Credit: Alyson Hurt/NPR

And sadly, this is below the global average for women’s wages in comparison to men’s.  According to a 2008 report by the International Trade Union Confederation, globally women earn on average 15.6 percent less than men (that’s 84.4 cents for every dollar). You can read their fascinating report here.  And interestingly enough, in the country of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, women make 40% more than men, which is also mentioned in the report.  Go figure.

Here’s another great chart included in Ludden’s article which shows how the gender/race salary gap has widened and lessened in America since the Equal Pay Act in 1963.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

The Equal Pay Act (the details of the act found here) was signed into law by JFK in 1963.  The law argued that essentially this gender salary gap was bad for business.

This act has helped improve the gender wage gap since 1963 by almost 20%, as shown in the chart above.  The act enabled women to file suit against a company within 180 days if they suspected pay discrimination.  The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill to be signed into law by President Obama (January 29, 2009), extended that time frame by allowing women 180 days after each paycheck to file suit for suspected pay discrimination.  (Find out more details about the act from Wikipedia and Open Congress.)

Obama’s statement on the act follows JFK’s, stating, “It’s about parents who find themselves with less money for tuition and child care,” Obama said last year. It’s about “couples who wind up with less to retire on. [In] households where one breadwinner is paid less than she deserves, it’s the difference between affording the mortgage or not.”

Surrounded by leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and with the new law’s namesake, Lilly Ledbetter, at his side, President Barack Obama signs into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act -- a powerful tool to fight discrimination. Joyce N. Boghosian - White House

This brings us to the Paycheck Fairness Act.  This act, first introduced by then Senator Hillary Clinton in 2005 and Representative Rosa DeLauro, pretty much strengthens the Equal Pay Act of 63.  Ludden states, “the Paycheck Fairness Act would make it easier to prove gender discrimination and would toughen penalties. It would also try to erode what advocates say is a paralyzing secrecy around salaries: The bill would ban companies from retaliating if workers talk to each other about pay.”  (A great breakdown of the act can be found here from the National Committee on Pay Equity’s website.)

Ludden states: “Whether or not the Paycheck Fairness Act becomes law, the Obama administration plans to crack down on pay inequity. Labor agencies, which saw their budgets shrink under the Bush administration, are getting a new infusion of staff and money. Pay equity consultant Tom McMullen says companies should prepare…

In February, the Obama administration announced a task force to coordinate enforcement of equal pay laws. It plans an education campaign to make sure that companies know: Equal work means equal pay.”

Obama’s press release on the proclamation of National Equal Pay Day detailed his administration’s efforts for pay equality:

“To further highlight the challenges women face and to provide a coordinated Federal response, I established the White House Council on Women and Girls. My Administration also created a National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force to bolster enforcement of pay discrimination laws, making sure women get equal pay for an equal day’s work. And, because the importance of empowering women extends beyond our borders, my Administration created the first Office for Global Women’s Issues at the Department of State.”

Fantastic news, eh?  And now you are up to speed, amigos.

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For those even more interested in the gender/race salary gap, Ludden’s report also has this amazingly interesting sidebar:

Equal Pay For Different Work?

Women’s groups say that fields traditionally dominated by women tend to be undervalued, and that this accounts for much of the ongoing gender pay gap. This is a contentious claim, with critics offering a number of other reasons, such as the danger associated with many mostly male fields. In any case, the Fair Pay Act — which is considered unlikely to pass Congress — would have companies evaluate their salary structure to ferret out such bias. Many large corporations, countries like Sweden and Canada, and a number of U.S. state governments already do this. The state of Minnesota has a gender pay equity law and uses an outside consultant to help set wage levels.

In 1982, a state evaluation found a sex-based wage disparity between delivery van drivers and clerk typists. The two jobs were deemed to be “equal work,” yet the drivers (mostly men) at the time earned $1,900 a month, while the typists (mostly women) earned $1,400.

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