A day of judging news and entertainment programming for the National Commission on Working Women's Broadcast Awards this week brought good news and bad news about the status of working women in America.
But it was mostly bad.
Despite the proliferation of stories about the individual accomplishments of women, particularly those who do "nontraditional" work, the fact remains that women are still being seriously mistreated in the work place.
Based on the entries in this Wider Opportunities for Women media competition, part of the problem is the media itself, which seems unable to deal seriously with the issue of sex discrimination perhaps because the news industry is such a major violator.
In my view, it is a cliche to spotlight a woman who does construction work, for example, with quotes from men that go like, "she can work like a man." But this is what we get, because these kinds of "human interest" pieces are easier to do than say, an in-depth look at why women who do the same job as men, over the same amount of time, get paid so much less.
Coincidentally, even as the commission's judges panel was convening on Tuesday, nurses at D.C. General Hospital were protesting a proposed raise -- a measly 2 percent -- in their contract with the city. There is no question that traditionally nurses -- who have some of the most important jobs in the health care industry -- are being underpaid because they are women and are not expected to fight back.
One entry in the radio broadcast category spoke to the issue of women in broadcasting and, frankly, it was disturbing to hear leading news executives make the same old tired excuses for not having a woman anchor the evening news, or not having women bureau chiefs and foreign correspondents.
America ain't ready for a female national news anchor, so the story goes. As for the lower pay, they say, women have come in during a time of "changing technical realities" that have lowered the scale. In other words, now that women are getting a foot in the door, the rules of the game are being changed.
To make matters worse, the white-male-dominated broadcast industry has demonstrated a desire to return to the days of the "blond bimbo" and the "Hollywood syndrome."
Across the board, full-time women workers earn only 64 cents compared with every dollar earned by men. Four out of five working women earn less than $19,000 a year. The average male manager makes $620 a week, while the average woman manager earns $395.
What kind of country treats its mothers, daughters and sisters this way?
One might also ask, since females make up the majority of the population, what kind of women tolerate this kind of treatment?
To their credit, the nurses at D.C. General are on the verge of saying that they are sick and tired of being mistreated and they aren't going to take it anymore. The Equal Pay Act of 1963, which holds that men and women who do the same work in the same place should get the same pay, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which holds that sex discrimination is unlawful and the Fair Labor Standards Act, which guarantees the minimum wage and overtime pay, are on their side.
The city should be, too.
Another entry presented to the judges was an example of how women in Michigan are flexing their muscle. There, 46 percent of all business are now owned by women. By 2000, it is predicted, women will own more than half of the businesses in the state.
The message here is clear and should be passed on to all girls early and often: The best way to keep from being bossed and beat by men is to become bosses themselves.