"If I could only have an hour in the middle of the day to just SIT in a room in my home entirely alone with no demands from my child, my husband, my dog or cat, my employer . . . just time to sit all alone . . ."
A Tacoma, Wash, woman penned this exhausted sigh in response to a survey conducted by the National Commission on Working Women (NCWW), the results of which were released this week. Updating author Virginia Woolf's 1929 assertion of a woman's need for a "room of her own," the survey shows employed women consider the lack of "time of their own" their most serious concern.
The NCWW questionnaire was published last September by eight national women's magazines and numerous labor periodicals. Of the 150,000 responses, 110,000 were tabulated. Supplemented by thousands of additional letters that flooded in, the material provides a frank - and sometimes poignant - look at the condition of women's work, home and personal lives.
"The survey represents the collective howl of 110,000 women," said Kathy Bony, spokeswoman for the nongovernmental commission, funded by private and federal grants.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the results indicate that women feel overworked, underpaid and underappreciated. But despite the frustrations of their employed sisters, nearly 60 percent of the non-employed respondents indicated that if an interesting job were offered to them, they would take it.
Inadequate pay was a second major concern among employed women - again, not surprising, considering women earn, on an average, 59 cents for every dollar earned by men. About half of all employed respondents felt their jobs did not pay enough: 47 percent of professionals and 55 percent of clerical, sales, service and blue-collar workers.
One California woman summed up the problem like this: "If you can figure out a way to get highly skilled secretaries at the end of their careers as much money as the young men who change the light bulbs in their early-career jobs, you deserve medals."
Juggling demands of home and office also ranked high among employed women's concerns, reflecting the increasing number of mothers joining the work force. Nearly half of all employed respondents cited difficulty in performing double-duty as homemakers and wage earners and said they needed more help at home. One-third of the employed mothers reported child care as a problem.
"Work has become a place you go to that takes the entire day," wrote one working mother. "And I have to leave each evening to go to Job 2 - Chef, Maid, Housekeeper and Nanny."
While women comprise 42 percent of the U.S. work force, 80 percent are concentrated in clerical, sales, service, factory and plant jobs. For these women, boredom, under-utilization and lack of respect are major concerns. Roughly 44 percent said their job does not use their skills and they have no chance to train for a better one; 40 percent consider their jobs boring; and another 40 percent would like to quit, but can't afford to.
"If a woman is not given a chance to prove herself on the job and seek advancement in that field, then is there really any reason for a working woman to continue to strive for her goal?" wrote a pennyslvania woman.
"I do use some of my real skills; they just aren't recognized as part of the job description," said a New York woman, who said she's "comparatively happy" with her job.
Despite the problems, many working women find enjoyment and satisfaction in their jobs.
"A few months ago I started becoming very discontented with my life and felt I was missing something," confessed a New Jersey Woman. "I started working, and I love it. I love my work, my husband and my daughter and I am happier than I've been in years."
Half of the respondents in professional postions like thier job very much. Of women in clerical, sales, service and factory jobs, 35 percent do.
Roughly one-fifth of the respondents were unemployed; 69 percent of that one-fifth said they were full-time homemakers. Forty-two percent of these women said they would not take a job, a majority because they were too busy with home and family. Fifteen percent of the non-employed women said their husbands would be opposed to their working.
Family responsibilities were the major concerns of women who said they planned to look for work. Nearly 80 percent were concerned about the burden of combining job and family, and 60 percent expressed a need for child care.
NCWW spokeswoman Bonk said she hopes the findings will encourage policy makers to launch programs to provide such services as child care and professional training for women. "Hopefully, it will also give women support in organizing and confidence to go to their employer and say, 'See, I'm not the only woman who feels this way.'"
While Bonk acknowledged that the respondents were all magazine readers, not necessarily representative of all women in the population, she said the fact that 150,000 women voluntarily spent about 30 minutes of their time to convey information is "extremely significant."